Minority Faith Groups Brace for Battle Against Trump

Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump and in support of Muslim residents in downtown Hamtramck, Mich., on Nov. 14, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Reuters/Brittany Greeson)
Demonstrators hold signs during a protest against President-elect Donald Trump and in support of Muslim residents in downtown Hamtramck, Mich., on Nov. 14, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Reuters/Brittany Greeson)

The American Civil Liberties Union collected more than $11 million and 150,000 new members. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Twitter account gained 9,000 followers. And the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and other bigotries, saw donations increase fifty fold.

In the days since Donald Trump won the presidency, these spikes in support for groups that defend religious and other minorities speak to a fear that the president-elect will trample on their rights — or at least empower those who would.

But what will the Trump administration actually mean for Muslims, Jews and other minority faiths?

The answer depends on what policies he actually intends to pursue; what the federal judges, agency officials and others charged to uphold the Constitution will allow; and the tone his administration sets on questions of religious tolerance and pluralism.

Since winning the election, Trump has:

  • Picked retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who has described Islam as “a cancer,” as his national security adviser.
  • Appointed Stephen Bannon, who ran a presidential campaign criticized for playing to angry voters’ Islamophobia and trafficking in anti-Semitic imagery and tropes, as his most senior adviser.
  • Chose a top transition team official who says he is ready to create a registry of immigrants from nations where terrorist groups flourish, a list — critics say — that will target Muslims.

Such words and deeds have done little to soothe the nerves of those who worry about his presidency.

“We’re looking for any good signs but the signs he is sending are not good,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

During a post-election “60 Minutes” interview, Trump called minorities’ fear of his presidency “totally unfounded” and said the media have exaggerated reports of his supporters committing hate crimes.

When pressed on the issue by the television magazine’s Lesley Stahl, Trump looked into the camera and uttered an emphatic “stop it” to his fans who harass minorities. Some called it the most hopeful statement Trump had offered on the topic.

But even as they said they intend to try to work with a Trump administration, advocates for religious minorities say they are not relying on hope.

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SOURCE: Religion News Service
Lauren Markoe

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