Michael Gerson’s Three-Point Sermon Needs a PostScript

Conservative Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson writes that “religious conservatives have become a corporate sponsor of Trumpism, like Visa at the Olympics” – which is, without doubt, the best line I’ve read post-election.

Even better, the three points Gerson offers up in his “uninvited sermon” are thoughtful and deserve wide discussion in the evangelical community.

But it’s pretty shocking there wasn’t a fourth point – a sign of a serious blind spot in the roster of conservative priorities and sensibilities.

Let’s turn first to Gerson’s advice, starting with his first point about nativism and immigrants:

First, it is a fact – one of those real facts – that Trump’s brand is associated with nativism, particularly the dehumanization of illegal immigrants (as rapists and murderers) and the otherization of Muslims (as internal and external threats). Evangelicals in the governing coalition need to find a way to demonstrate that this was not the reason they supported Trump – that their hard choice was motivated by other, nobler causes

His second point is about freedom of speech applying to all:

Second, evangelicals must utterly reject the idea that the protections of the First Amendment apply to them but not fully to Muslims.

Finally, Gerson raises a red flag about the danger religions face when they affiliate with a political group:

Third, conservative Christians need to remember that – throughout the cautionary tale of Western history – when religion identified with a political order, it is generally not the political order that suffers most. It is the reputation of the faith.

What’s missing from this provocative, heartfelt troika of advice?

Any mention of Mr. Trump’s sexist language and behavior. Any concern expressed about Trump’s pattern of demeaning and predatory behavior with women.

Who can forget how Trump’s smarminess was so succinctly summarized by Megyn Kelly at the August 2015 Republican debate:

“You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs’ and ‘disgusting animals.’ …

Who can forget the tapes from Access Hollywood or the Miss Universe pageant?

It’s particularly perplexing that Mr. Gerson’s column was published in the Post two days following the Women’s March on Washington, a time when millions of Americans were raising up concerns about civility, sexism, and equal access and opportunity.

Mr. Gerson’s three-point sermon is a thoughtful homily that deserves consideration for many Sundays to come.

But the sermon needs a postscript: Conservative Christians must also demonstrate that their political support of Mr. Trump doesn’t indicate an endorsement of secondary status for women and girls – or in any way communicate that respectful treatment of women and girls is negotiable.

New Leadership for CA Women’s Caucus in 2017

2017 launches with new leadership at the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

Assembly Member Cristina Garcia steps in as Chair; and Senator Connie M. Leyva is Vice Chair.

Garcia, elected to a two-year term, also serves as First Vice Chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. Known as a strong advocate for women’s issues and a champion of electing more women to public office, Gacia went to the mat this past year for AB 1561, her “No Tax on Tampons” bill. The legislation received majority support in the Senate and Assembly, but was vetoed by the Governor.

Garcia is now working with Caucus members to set their policy priorities for the new year.

Without doubt, 2016 was one of the Caucus’ most successful years ever – and a tip of the hat goes to the Immediate Past Chair, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, for her leadership and tenacity.

Working with the Stronger California Advocates Network, the Caucus championed a proactive policy agenda on economic security and secured a multi-year budget commitment of over $500 million for subsidized child care.

While not a complete list, two other major successes are worth noting:

  • Culminating a years-long battle, Senator Holly J. Mitchell succeeded in repealing the Maximum Family Grant, a provision in the state welfare program that had denied aid for infants born into poverty.
  • Senator Leyva also had a big win, securing passage of the 2016 Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (SB 1015), which establishes permanent overtime protection for California’s 300,000 domestic workers.

The bad news for the Women’s Caucus is that their numbers in 2017 are diminished. Twenty-six women now serve in the State Senate and Assembly – down from 30 the previous year.


Wonk Note #1: Implementing the Repeal of MFG

After a four-year battle to repeal a provision in the state’s welfare program that prohibited payments for children born while their mother’s were receiving CalWORKs, counties throughout the state have moved forward to notify eligible parents they will be receiving additional benefits.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell campaigned tirelessly to repeal what is known as the Maximum Family Grant (MFG), succeeding last year with a budget provision that removed the restriction. Senator Mitchell worked with a coalition of over 100 organizations, led by the Western Center on Law and Poverty (WCLP) and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice (CLRJ).

Earlier this week, Jessica Bartholow from WCLP appealed to coalition members to work with California’s 58 counties to ensure full implementation of the MFG repeal and provided this fact sheet in both English and Spanish.