If Trump Wants Evangelical Support, He Should Speak Out for Threatened Russian Evangelicals
Draconian new legislation would ban most evangelism that lacks government permission, and allow the deportation of foreign missionaries.
“I will never let you down.” That’s what Donald Trump told Evangelical voters in a January campaign video just before the Iowa caucuses. Many of us already feel more than a bit let down, but Trump’s rather cordial relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin may now present an opportunity for some level of redemption.
Putin is the only person standing between evangelicals, pentecostals, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists and other religious minorities and a draconian law that would, according to Christianity Today, prevent any evangelism in public, online or even in homes without government permission. Individuals and organizations could be fined up to $15,500 per violation, and foreign missionaries could face deportation.
Billed as “anti-terrorism” legislation, the measure has rapidly passed the Russian legislature with overwhelming support. The Russian Orthodox Church which has increasingly become intertwined in a nationalistic dance with the state since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 will likely retain legal access to the people, but all others will be forced to either jump through hoops that may be well closed to them or take their message underground. Russian believers have been praying and fasting and asking their brothers and sisters around the world to join them, but amid holiday activities celebrating freedom few in America have any inkling of what is happening.
Time is short and this is a situation that calls for decisive leadership. Will Donald Trump use the negotiating skills that he trumpets and what may be the best relationship he has with a foreign leader to stand up for religious freedom abroad? Will Trump allies Dr. Ben Carson and Governor Mike Huckabee, whose Seventh Day Adventist and Baptist brethren are now in dire need, speak out publicly? Will the hundreds of conservative religious leaders who met with Trump recently do likewise?
If candidate Trump stays silent here, what can we expect from a President Trump as religious freedom comes under increasing pressure here in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Already, in the same Iowa where Trump targeted his initial pledge, the state is seemingly stepping through the church door to impose transgender restroom polices.
Speaking of how he would handle things with Putin after Russian military aircraft buzzed a U.S. naval destroyer, Trump said, “If it were me, I will tell you, I would call him and I would say, ‘Don’t do it. Just stop it. Don’t do it.’” America’s founding values and decades of work by American missionaries abroad are now in the crosshairs. Talk is cheap. If Donald Trump wants to earn the trust of skeptical religious voters, now is the time for action.
John Murdock is a law professor at the Handong International Law School in South Korea. His writings can be found at johnmurdock.org.