Trump’s church plans for Easter un­cer­tain

In­ter­est al­ways high for where a pres­i­dent at­tends ser­vices

The Commercial Appeal - - Nation - CATHER­INE LUCEY

WASH­ING­TON - As Easter Sun­day ar­rives, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has yet to at­tend a church ser­vice in the cap­i­tal since the wor­ship events of his in­au­gu­ra­tion week­end in Jan­uary.

Trump was spend­ing this hol­i­day at Mar-a-Lago, his pri­vate club in Palm Beach, Florida, a fre­quent week­end des­ti­na­tion. The White House would not say if he would go to Easter ser­vices. A year ago, while a can­di­date, he at­tended the nearby Epis­co­palian church where he and Me­la­nia Trump were mar­ried.

Where a pres­i­dent wor­ships is al­ways of in­ter­est in Wash­ing­ton.

Bill Clin­ton fre­quented a Methodist church. Jimmy Carter taught Bap­tist Sun­day school. and Barack Obama vis­ited an Epis­co­pal church near the White House.

But com­pared with the buzz in 2009 over whether newly elected Barack Obama would join a church, there has been less chat­ter this year about Trump.

Some of the more lib­eral churches op­pose his poli­cies. Also, he’s out of town a lot of week­ends. And he’s not seen as a com­mit­ted church­goer any­way.

Obama at­tended church only oc­ca­sion­ally.

Per­haps the churches are bet­ter off with­out the hub­bub, said the Rev. Dar­rell Scott, a pas­tor from Cleve­land who sup­ported Trump’s can­di­dacy and serves on a faith ad­vi­sory board. Said Scott: “I be­lieve one of the rea­sons he has not es­tab­lished a home church is it will be­come larger than life.”

Raised a Pres­by­te­rian, Trump has called him­self a “re­li­gious per­son.” At a 2015 gath­er­ing hosted by Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives in Iowa, Trump said: “I’m Protes­tant, I’m Pres­by­te­rian, and I go to church, and I love God, and I love my church.” He has also spo­ken about at­tend­ing Mar­ble Col­le­giate Church in Man­hat­tan.

In his weekly ra­dio ad­dress, he called Easter Sun­day “a holy day of rev­er­ence and wor­ship” and “a sa­cred time that fills the spirit of our na­tion with the faith of our peo­ple.”

Some Wash­ing­ton churches might be an un­com­fort­able fit for him.

“Churches in D.C. tend, not all, but tend to be a lit­tle more lib­eral. It’s a hard sell,” said the Rev. Roger Gench, the se­nior pas­tor at New York Av­enue Pres­by­te­rian Church near the White House. He said his church has not reached out to Trump, though all are wel­come.

“The poli­cies of Trump are counter to the views of most of the peo­ple in the church,” he said.

The thrice-mar­ried Trump once es­poused more lib­eral po­si­tions but ran for pres­i­dent as a con­ser­va­tive. He did not im­me­di­ately win over the Chris­tian right in the Repub­li­can pri­maries, but solid sup­port from evan­gel­i­cals helped pro­pel him to the White House. And so far, those sup­port­ers are look­ing at his words and deeds over his church at­ten­dance, said Bob Van­der Plaats, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­va­tive Iowa group the Fam­ily Leader.

“When he an­nounced our ac­tion as it re­lates to Syria and he also used the words, seek­ing God’s wis­dom, that’s an en­cour­age­ment to me,” said Van­der Plaats. He added that con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians are happy with pol­icy moves like nom­i­nat­ing Judge Neil Gor­such to the Supreme Court and sign­ing leg­is­la­tion that lets states deny fed­eral fam­ily plan­ning money to Planned Par­ent­hood and other abor­tion providers.

In gen­eral, Van­der Plaats said, “I also think faith lead­ers and peo­ple of faith are not look­ing for him to be some­body he’s not.”

PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS/AP

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his wife Me­la­nia at­tended ser­vices at St. John’s Epis­co­pal Church across from the White House on Jan. 20, just be­fore his in­au­gu­ra­tion.

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