Column: Trump’s actions legitimize hate groups

The president’s decision to speak at a conference organized by a hate group shows his true beliefs about LGBTQ people.

Maddie Niblett is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

“In America, we don’t worship government; we worship God,” President Donald Trump said on Friday morning from his podium at the Values Voter Summit, an annual convention for Christian social conservatives. At this event, Trump made yet another ominously biased speech that started with calling America “a nation of believers” and claiming that “we are strengthened and by sustained by the power of prayer.” It is especially alarming that this event is put together by the Family Research Council, an organization that is designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Trump referring to America in such blatantly religious terms is, to make a gross understatement, troubling.

To assume that our country is a “nation of believers” is to assume that America is inherently religious, namely Christian. While there are plenty of Christian people living and prospering in America, no single belief system defines the conglomeration of people that reside in this very large and diverse land. Trump’s comments set a dangerous precedent for people who do not fit into the category that the president was referring to; if we assume that the basis of American society is Christian, then, by default, non-Christian people are seen as a sort of “other.”

In America, we have a little thing called separation of church and state made possible by the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. This keeps the government from favoring one religion over another, as I’m sure you learned in second grade.

In the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, the Court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to receive marriage licenses. The argument against this decision was that states should be allowed to exercise freedom of religion by not condoning same-sex marriage. However, America is not a religious nation, and as such people should not be able to discriminate based on religious belief. This sentiment extends to larger society as well: Since America is not inherently associated with any particular religion, people living in America should not have any beliefs that are tied to religion forced upon them.

Of course, one could argue that Trump, a self-proclaimed Christian, is only doing what many other presidents have done in the past, which is exercising his right to address a group of people that he identifies with. This would not be an issue if the people he received standing ovations from weren’t at an event sponsored by a legitimate hate group that handed out “hazards of homosexuality” pamphlets that outlined the group’s belief that homosexuality is a “public health crisis affecting us all.”

By speaking at the Values Voter Summit, Trump is sending a message to people who identify as LGBTQ that he does not support them at all. Instead, he is supporting the bigoted, discriminatory, dangerously homophobic values of people who want to see America become a religiously motivated system that, instead of practicing tolerance and acceptance, denies LGBTQ people's very existence in the U.S.

America is supposed to be a place where people of all identities and backgrounds can flourish. When the leader of the country openly shows support for a hate group that tries to deny people the right to live life the way they want to because of discriminatory religious beliefs, you have to wonder whether the country is as tolerant of a place as you believe.

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