- The Washington Times - Friday, March 27, 2020

A New York Times op-ed published Friday pins the deadly fallout from the coronavirus on “religiously conservative Republicans” who form “the core” of President Trump’s base of support. 

Writer Katherine Stewart’s “The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals” offers a blistering condemnation of the White House Coronavirus Task Force’s religious members, along with religious Republicans throughout the country.

Ms. Stewart, the author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,” insisted that evangelical Christians working for the president are ill-equipped to deal with the contagion, which originated in Wuhan, China.

“Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise,” she wrote. “In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.”

“By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction,” the author continued. “But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base.”

Ms. Stewart also singled out the following individuals for culpability for coronavirus chaos:

  • Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty University president
  • Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church
  • Ken Blackwell, Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at Family Research Council.
  • Guillermo Maldonado, pastor of El Rey Jesus in Miami

“Not every pastor is behaving recklessly, of course, and not every churchgoer in these uncertain times is showing up for services out of disregard for the scientific evidence,” Ms. Stewart continued. “Far from it. Yet none of the benign uses of religion in this time of crisis have anything to do with Mr. Trump’s expressed hope that the country would be ‘opened up and just raring to go by Easter.’ He could, of course, have said, ‘by mid-April.’ But Mr. Trump did not invoke Easter by accident, and many of his evangelical allies were pleased by his vision of “packed churches all over our country.”

The author concluded by saying the consequences of Mr. Trump’s dealings with religious conservatives “are too obvious to ignore.”

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Friday shows 51 percent of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

“Many polls are much better than this,” the president tweeted in response to the news. “If it is the Fake News @washingtonpost, add 10 points!”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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