News (USA)

Is Trump’s evangelical brain trust in violation of the law?

Trump evangelical Christians
Pastor Joshua Nink, right, prays for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, as his wife, Melania, watches after a Sunday service at First Christian Church, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in January 2016.Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

The religious right’s affection for President Trump knows no bounds. In addition to Trump giving conservative Christians the Supreme Court nominees that they want, he’s also done his best to fulfill the right’s dream of rolling back LGBTQ rights. As a bonus, Trump even created an Evangelical Advisory Board, giving them direct access to the highest levels of the administration.

Now, a watchdog group is charging that the Board is in violation of federal law and needs to disband.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the White House saying that the Board fails to meet sunshine laws because it meets in private and provides no public information on its work.

“It is clear that the President’s Evangelical Advisory Board is doing substantive work with the Trump administration behind closed doors – without any sunlight for the public to understand how and why decisions are being made,” the group wrote in the letter.

The Board’s argument against the charge is truly Trumpian: the Board says it doesn’t exist.

“The truth is, there actually isn’t a board. This is slang language that has carried over from the campaign into the administration,” Johnnie Moore, a spokesman for the supposedly mythical group, told the Washington Post. “There is no formal faith advisory board of any sort at the White House.”

Americans United claims that the Board has had significant imput into administration policy. Indeed, President Trump brought the group and other religious right leaders together last week for a “state-like” dinner, in which he urged the group to campaign for Republicans in November – in direct violation of federal law.

In the scale of corruption in the Trump administration, failure to adhere to sunshine laws is the equivalent of jaywalking. But that doesn’t mean the Board’s secrecy isn’t a big deal.

It’s bad enough that the Trump cabinet is comprised of religious right followers without a shadow group further advising the Administration and having no accountability for its influence. But then, how would that be out of character with the way the Trump administration operates?

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