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Behind Trump’s demand to reopen churches: pour the numbers in the vote and alarm in his campaign



“I held a number of information meetings with donors and key stakeholders and said that the further this goes, it will be a noticeable and predictable float-down as you get past the first surge of the rally-around flag,” said Ralph Reed, a top Trump surrogate and head of the Belief and Freedom Coalition.

“Now you are in this trough and what voters will do is wait and pass judgment when they have assessed the job President Trump has done to bring the economy back to recovery that comes out of the pandemic,” he added to.

Following the PRRI investigation, which was conducted while Trump was a dominant presence on television broadcasts daily briefings by his administration̵

7;s Coronavirus working group, the Pew Research Center released new data last week that showed a 7-point search from April to May of white Catholics not rejecting Trump’s response to the Covid-19 crisis and a 6-point decline among white evangelicals who previously gave him positive ratings.

Trump campaign assistants, White House officials and outside allies are responding to the threat by increasing their outreach to religious voters and pledging to prioritize religious gatherings as they push to reopen the US economy. Administrative officials have conducted several talks with conservative Christian groups to secure their support over the past two months. Trump himself recently participated in an online church service hosted by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. And Vice President Mike Pence held a roundtable of faith leaders in Iowa earlier this month. Reed said his organization is planning a get-out-the-vote campaign three times as large as its 2016 effort.

The presidential reelection deal “will engage the Christian community across the country to overwhelmingly elect Trump Trump 2020,” Trump campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso said in a statement.

“In addition to his extraordinary record in conservative and faith-based issues, he has appointed over 180 solid, conservative federal judges … defended religious freedoms and has stood as the most lively president we have ever had,” Farnaso added.

On Thursday, Trump also flooded a potential move by his administration to reopen the house of God in the near future.

“The churches are not treated with respect by many Democratic governors,” Trump said as he left the White House to visit a fan factory in Michigan. “I want to open our churches. We will take a very strong position on that very soon. “

Some Trump allies have attributed the recent decline in presidential support to the closure of churches that Trump raised on Friday. Social distance guidelines forced most churches to turn off personal worship or move Sunday services into the virtual sphere, and a member of the Trump campaign’s “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition suggested that religious leaders and parishes who have been frustrated by the restrictions are mistakenly blamed on Trump. (Religious institutions in Kentucky, Texas, Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana and California have all raised legal challenges against their states for restrictions on religious activities and gatherings.)

“Those who do not understand the legality of the process may blame the president or administration when the federal government is dealing with states’ rights,” said Mark Burns, a South Carolina pastor and prominent Trump supporter.

It was not immediately clear whether the president’s order on Friday – that state and local officials must take immediate action to resume religious institutions – was legally allowed, nor was it clear how administrative officials planned to execute the guidance.

Guidelines released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the reopening of certain facilities – including schools, public transport systems and childcare – did not mention how religious institutions should go to religious services and ministry opportunities. A senior executive said the guidance was omitted because of concerns that the recipes that CDC employees planned to provide were too restrictive.

It is unlikely that the critics of church closures alone are responsible for the decline in Trump’s favoritism among critical religious demographics. According to the Pew survey, 43 percent of white evangelicals and 52 percent of white Catholics think that the current restrictions on public activity in their areas are appropriate to 42 percent and 31 percent, respectively, who think fewer restrictions would be better. Larger proportions of white evangelicals and white Catholics also said they were more afraid that their state governments would lift public sector restrictions too soon than they were about leaving restrictions in place for too long.

As coronavirus-related deaths approach 100,000 and outbreaks occur in places where social distance is more difficult, Laura Gifford, a historian of politics and religion at George Fox University, said it will probably be more difficult for the president’s supporters to embrace his plans for a faster reopening of the country. The more Trump contradicts healthcare officials who have warned against opening schools and non-essentials, she suggested, the less acceptance of his regular supporters might be by his total response.

“If Grandma’s retirement home suffers from an outbreak, there is pretty good evidence that something is wrong and that makes it hard to ignore what public health experts say,” Gifford said. “This is something that is more difficult to ignore than previous controversies or crises because it has consequences for life and death for parishes and religious communities.”

Part of the strategy that Trump allies have adopted to protect his relationship with conservative Christians is to frame the new coronavirus – and the church’s closures in response to social distance restrictions – as a threat to religious freedom. The president’s religious supporters routinely cite religious freedom as one of their top priorities and an area where they believe the Trump administration has been exceptionally receptive.


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