Last week the American Humanist Association polled its Facebook followers on what their major concerns about the Trump administration are. The choices boiled down to women’s reproductive rights, climate change, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the Johnson Amendment. While the results were close, freedom of speech was seen as the top issue under threat, with 27 percent of responders choosing it. Climate change was a close second with 25 percent of the vote, followed by religious freedom (19 percent), reproductive rights (15 percent), and the Johnson Amendment (14 percent).
The fear that free speech is under threat is well founded, with our president often referring to journalists and news outlets as “dishonest” and “fake,” along with claims that he’s at war with the media (said while standing in front of the CIA’s memorial wall). Trump’s chief strategist, the white nationalist Steve Bannon, chastised the news media and described them as “the opposition party,” while his colleague Stephen Miller decried that President Trump’s authority “will not be questioned.” Outlets like the Wall Street Journal are already facing inner turmoil over pressures to “go soft” on Trump due to the close relationship between the president and Rupert Murdoch, who owns both the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.
A quarter of those who responded to the AHA poll picked climate change as their biggest concern in the Trump administration. The appointment of Scott Pruitt to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has raised eyebrows around the country, especially when considering Pruitt’s aversion to facts with regards to the established science of climate change. Trump’s rhetoric on this issue has many people worried—especially those who wish to see our species exist past the turn of the century. While appointing a climate skeptic to lead the EPA may seem enough for most, Trump has promised to “get rid of” the Paris Agreement in totality, while falsely stating that climate change is a hoax connived by the Chinese. With warming temperatures worldwide, the Paris Agreement was seen as the last bastion of hope for a reversal of our fortunes. Using his extended range of vocabulary, Trump described the agreement as “bad.” References to climate change disappeared from the White House website in the days following the inauguration.
The massively successful Women’s March on Washington, which saw roughly 2.5 million people assemble around the world in opposition to the new administration, stressed a heightened concern over women’s rights to their bodies. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has voted consistently throughout his career against female autonomy, in agreement with Trump over the appointment of a Supreme Court judge who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Trump has additionally implemented the global gag rule on any organization that funds or provides information on abortion, an act that only serves to hurt the world’s most vulnerable women who seek to control their reproduction safely. With only two women in Trump’s cabinet, and an infamous picture of him signing the gag rule order without any women present, Trump and his team have waged war on women’s bodies without their consent (and it’s not the first time he’s engaged with women without their consent).
The Trump administration has benefitted from an era of “alternative facts” and hyper-partisan politics, cozying up to both Wall Street and the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps more than other progressive groups, humanists and the nontheist community are equally concerned about the president’s comments on repealing the Johnson Amendment, which prevents churches from openly endorsing or fundraising for a specific political candidate. Considering his massive evangelical support, Trump’s repeal of the Johnson Amendment would certainly guarantee their backing in 2020, an election he’s already filed for.
The American Humanist Association is a longtime proponent of the Johnson Amendment and held Congressional briefings on the matter last month. Repeal would prove to be the domino that could set the United States tumbling into a theocracy. With the so-called faith economy estimated to be worth between $1.2 and $4.8 trillion annually, churches could morph into Super PACs and the wall between church and state would crumble as politicians pander to churches for campaign donations. When these churches preach politics from the pulpit, their influence grows. Women’s reproductive rights come under immediate threat along with marriage equality, free speech, and secular public schools.
Evangelical Christians excused Trump’s sexual assaults, defilement of minorities, nonchalant attitude towards devastating climate change, and war on women’s autonomy. It is up to we the people to halt this decline. Cynthia Todd Quam outlined a succinct step-by-step call to action for nontheists in the latest Humanist magazine, calling all humanists to protest, fundraise, donate, read, and start petitions. For those who don’t believe such action works, think again.