Religious Right Eyes Biden Warily After Trump’s Good Favor

(AP) -
Joe Biden on Nov. 19, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Conservative Christians have proven some of Donald Trump’s staunchest allies during his presidency. As his administration draws to a close, some of those backers are approaching Joe Biden with skepticism, but not antagonism.

Christian conservatives who stood by Trump through moments of crisis and success are hardly comfortable with his loss, but they’re largely not echoing the harsh tone Trump directed toward his Democratic rival.

Texas-based pastor Robert Jeffress, a stalwart booster of Trump, said Christians are obliged “to pray for what appears to be President-elect Biden. If he succeeds, all of America succeeds.”

Jeffress described himself as “deeply disappointed” by the apparent loss of a president he considers “a friend,” but added that he would respond to any outreach attempt by Biden, just as he did with Trump. The possibility that Biden could “be pulled away from extremist positions” held by other Democrats, Jeffress said, is “a plus not just for conservative Christians, but for all of America.”

Biden himself is Christian, and attends religious services every weekend. However, several of his official policies stand in stark contrast to many Christians beliefs about family.

Still, conservative Christians exerted scant influence over the Obama administration’s agenda — and pro-Trump evangelicals are expecting a similar sideline role under Biden.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, a longtime Trump partner, said that during Obama’s presidency, “I didn’t go to that end of Pennsylvania Avenue, because I was never invited.”

“If I were invited, certainly I would go, to have a conversation and represent the views our constituents have,” Perkins added in an interview. “But I don’t hold out hope that they’re going to invite those who hold to traditional, biblical views on life [and] religious freedom.”

Perkins said his socially conservative group would focus on working with the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose party is poised to keep control of that chamber unless Democrats can win next month’s two runoffs in Georgia.

However, some groups such as Perkins’ may find occasional opportunities to work with the Biden administration even while remaining critical of it in their messaging to members and fundraising, according to evangelical writer and analyst Napp Nazworth.

“They’re going to be able to say, ‘Please support us because your religious freedom is in danger,'” said Nazworth, who left the Christian Post last year after it published a pro-Trump editorial.

Meanwhile, evangelicals outside those most closely associated with Trump already are identifying commonalities where they could partner with Biden.

Nathan Bult, a senior vice president at Bethany Christian Services, said he has engaged with Biden’s transition team on child welfare policy.

Bult said his group worked with the Trump administration but “we were never shy about criticizing” moves it disagreed with, and “we’ll treat the Biden administration the same way.”

Galen Carey, vice president for government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, pointed to several areas for collaboration with Biden’s administration, including immigration, paid family leave and criminal justice reform.

“We have principles that we think should be appealing to all Americans,” Carey said, “and we’d like to be a constructive force for the common good.”