A president can be an ardent defender of religious freedom without being overtly devout himself. But that didn't stop CNN from branding President Trump a hypocrite for having not attended church this weekend while having recently promoted the re-opening of houses of worship.
Here's how New Day co-host Alisyn Camerota teed up CNN senior political analyst John Avlon this morning:
"Over the past week [Trump’s] been very interested in churches. Very interested in churches reopening . . . But then yesterday he didn’t go to church. He played golf. So how do we process that?"
Avlon was only too happy to play along:
"Just more of the do as I say, not as I do presidency. It shows how he uses — he’s willing to use religion as a political weapon but not walk the walk."
Wrong! The First Amendment forbids Congress from making laws "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion. And it was in that spirit that President Trump deemed houses of worship essential, thus qualifying them to reopen. But it actually would fly in the face of the First Amendment for a president to instruct, let alone order, citizens to attend church. And President Trump did not do so.
The free exercise of religion also implies the right not to practice one. And so, contrary to Avlon's claim, there was no "walk to walk." There was nothing hypocritical about President Trump choosing not to attend church over the weekend. For CNN to suggest otherwise reflects a misunderstanding of the Constitution, and represents an inappropriate meddling in the personal life and faith of a president.
Note: On Saturday, we noted another instance of the liberal media's misunderstanding of religious freedom in America. MSNBC's Ali Velshi made the bizarre suggestion that President Trump's deeming houses of worship to be essential could constitute a violation of "church and state." Nowhere, of course, are the words "church and state" to be found in the First Amendment. But beyond that, by deeming all houses of worship to be essential, explicitly mentioning churches, synagogues and mosques, President Trump was doing precisely the opposite of that which the First Amendment forbids: establishing an official state religion.
CNN would presumably prefer ostentatious presidential displays of religiosity, as in the devout Bill Clinton carrying his Bible into church.
Here's the transcript.
6:22 am EDT
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Joining us now is CNN senior political analyst John Avlon. John, great to see you. There are a few interesting things about the president choosing to play golf yesterday. And one is, that over the past week, he’s been very interested in churches. He's been very interested in churches reopening. He’s encouraged them to do so, even against the advice of medical experts. But then, yesterday, he didn’t go to church. He played golf. So, how do we process that?
JOHN AVLON: Well, it's just more of the do as I say, not as I do presidency. But I think it shows how he uses — he’s willing to use religion as a political weapon, but not walk the walk. And I think that's because And that's because he’s never particularly been a person of faith, even though he's very popular among evangelicals.