10 Commandments outside Austin, Texas, Capitol Building.

A six-foot high tablet of the 10 Commandments, which is located on the grounds of the Texas Capitol Building in Austin, Texas, is seen on February 28, 2005.

(Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

Trump Has Violated At Least Half of the 10 Commandments He Wants Placed in US Public Schools

In the wake of Louisiana’s new law, it is essential to consider the ways in which Trump’s perverse exploitation of religion is a clear and present danger to U.S. democracy that fails in moral terms.

Louisiana’s new law requiring that the Ten Commandments be posted in each public school classroom is a reminder that it’s high time to talk about former U.S. President Donald Trump and religion. While a dangerous cocktail of religious zealotry and theocratic desire helps define Trumpism, it is rarely discussed in detail—perhaps because scrutinizing a candidate’s religious beliefs is normally considered out of bounds.

That’s a mistake. While religious faith is, in most contexts, a private matter, it’s hardly off limits to discuss religion when a would-be dictator and his supporters make it a centerpiece of their anti-democratic movement. In fact, it is essential to consider the ways in which Trump’s perverse exploitation of religion is a clear and present danger to U.S. democracy.

Trump himself is quite obviously not a man of religious faith—it’s safe to say he has personally violated at least half of the commandments Louisiana will place before public school students. He is, however, quite happy to exploit his supporters’ religious beliefs in pursuit of political benefits.

Trump has brazenly compared himself to Jesus Christ, eagerly sought to line his pockets by hawking a $60 “God Bless the USA” Bible on social media, and infamously used a Bible as a prop after he marched through a square near the White House that had just been forcibly cleared of nonviolent protesters. Some of Trump’s supporters quite literally see him as an instrument of God, a “messiah-like figure” divinely chosen to rule. Trump depends on support from Christian nationalists, including rank-and-file voters as well as public figures like Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), and other Republican members of Congress. An organization associated with the unabashedly anti-democratic Project 2025 agenda “is developing plans to infuse Christian nationalist ideas” in a possible second Trump administration.

Christian nationalism, as advanced by Trump supporters through their chosen vessel, Donald Trump, is a promise to return the nation to a time when social and political hierarchy was enforced by government.

This is a movement pointed in the direction of theocracy, and it is essential to engage it on its own terms. Most centrally, that means considering (1) how Trump and his followers seek to impose profoundly anti-democratic ideas on all of us and (2) how the narrow and extreme form of religion deployed by Trumpists fails in moral terms.

Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, limits on power, the rule of law, independent courts, individual rights, and equality. Christian nationalism, which seeks a “Christian dominion over government” in which “Christian people [are] privileged in the United States,” simply cannot be reconciled with liberal democracy. The Trumpist goal to define the United States as a country first and foremost for Christians “in a way that it is not for everyone else” should be understood in the context of Trump’s broader desire to rule as a dictator in a country where some Americans have more rights than others.

We have seen what that looks like at various times during U.S. history, for example, when slavery or Jim Crow were the law of the land—the country has only been a liberal democracy since 1965. Christian nationalism, as advanced by Trump supporters through their chosen vessel, Donald Trump, is a promise to return the nation to a time when social and political hierarchy was enforced by government. This is a dark vision of inequality, a country where, to borrow Orwellian terms, some citizens are more equal than others.

Christian nationalism advances specific policy goals that are deeply unpopular—for example, banning in vitro fertilization (IVF), blocking access to contraception, and prohibiting abortion. Supporting unpopular policies doesn’t mean Trump can’t win—he of course won the 2016 election without winning the popular vote—but highlighting the extreme agenda associated with Christian nationalism could be a political problem for Trump. We have seen, for example, how access to abortion has been a winning issue for Democrats since the 2022 Dobbs decision. Trump understands this and is trying to downplay these unpopular positions. Many voters may not understand what Christian nationalism is and why Christian nationalists support Trump. Drawing attention to all of this would highlight the extreme, anti-democratic nature of Trump’s candidacy.

Talking about Trump and religion doesn’t only remind voters of Trump’s aspiration to rule as a dictator, it also reveals the moral failure at the core of Trumpism. Religion is, among other things, a way to define morality, to distinguish between right and wrong. One legislator who defends Louisiana’s new law says it’s a good idea because “our sense of right and wrong is based off of the 10 Commandments.” That sounds reasonable in theory (setting aside the obvious First Amendment problem the Louisiana law runs into)—but the religion invoked by Trump and his supporters is a complete failure in moral terms.

Trump is an utterly amoral man who is incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Trump’s only lodestar is Trump—in his view, whatever he does is, by definition, “right.” Trump supporters who profess religious belief often understand this. They recognize that Trump himself is not a moral man—a conclusion that’s hard to avoid when you’re talking about someone who has bragged about sexual assault, mocked people with disabilities, and recently become a convicted felon—but they argue it is justified to support Trump in order to advance some larger goal. This isn’t genuine morality—it’s a kind of moral relativism that abandons absolute principles (it’s wrong to brag about sexual assault or make fun of people with disabilities) in service of what is perceived to be a larger goal (here, electing Trump in order to advance Christian nationalism).

One way to expose the moral bankruptcy of Trump and his followers is for conservative people of faith to call it out. Some, like Peter Wehner (who worked for three Republican presidents) are doing this by emphasizing Trump’s amoral nature. Other religious conservatives who understand the danger of Christian nationalism and Trump’s authoritarian goals can do the same. Trump and his supporters shouldn’t be able to hide their extremist views beneath the cloak of religion. Since Trump and Trumpists have made religion a central part of his appeal, the real meaning and danger of that message should be made clear.

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