The White House has not continued the faith-based office that has been maintained by previous administrations. Johnnie Moore, one of Mr. Trump’s advisors, clarified that there is no longer a formal Evangelical Advisory Council, which was part of the election campaign in 2016. Moore’s relationship is informal – interacting sometimes daily with the administration, he said, and about every four to six seeks directly with the president.
“Based on my experience, this White House doesn’t need to have a faith-based office in order to have a positive, open and productive relationship with the faith-based community,” Moore said. The issues discussed range from the “obvious,” religious liberty and the sanctity of life, to the “less obvious,” paid family leave and criminal-justice reform, he said.
Last fall, President Trump issued an executive order renewing faith advisory councils for agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. But he did not renew the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships launched in the George W. Bush administration and extended in 2009 by President Barack Obama.
Moore said that while the formal office served the purpose of outreach, it had another purpose: “to keep the faith community out of the West Wing.” Moore added, “this is an administration that wants our community not down the road meeting with staffers, but actually in the heart of the conversation,” Moore said.
He said he personally has been in substantive meetings in the White House with a cumulative total of about 500 religious leaders. “I’m not sure that many of those offices, over the course of previous administrations, have had so many meaningful and substantive interactions with religious leaders,” said Moore. “Just because the infrastructure is different, it doesn’t mean the quality of the relationship is different; and on the contrary, it’s actually better,” he said.
Last fall, the progressive website Think Progress, expressed concern that the faith “baked in” to the Trump administration appears to be “mostly of one flavor: conservative Christian.” The website noted Cabinet members regularly attend a Bible study with Vice President Mike Pence, and it named members “known for preaching right-wing Christian positions,” including EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Moore said that the White House interacts with people of a variety of streams of Christianity and other faiths, including catholic and Jewish leaders from various traditions.
“One of the many things I like about this White House is that they are more reliant on their relationship with regular, everyday Americans and less reliant on the formal infrastructure of government,” Moore said. “This White House has an open-door policy. These [faith leaders] have been able to come in, and they push back on things, and then they leave. And they can say whatever they want, whenever they want to whomever they want.”
Moore acknowledged that the Cabinet is not only “sympathetic to people of faith, it’s a Cabinet filled with people of faith. This is a White House of leaders that pray together,” he said. “It’s not uncommon at all for meetings to begin with prayer.”
There are probably more evangelical believers in the Cabinet than in any previous administration, he said, including President Reagan’s. “In previous administrations, when evangelicals talked to the White House there would be an issue of translation,” he said. “That’s not the case at all here. And it’s not just the president and the vice president, or even the Cabinet; it goes really, really deep into government. “There are more deeply committed believers in various positions from the bottom to the top,” he said.
Moore emphasized it isn’t necessary to have a faith office to deal with policy that intersects with the faith community. “There are probably more [government-faith] partnerships going on than ever before; it’s just not being funneled through one office.”
Moore also said that often when he and other leaders go to the White House with senior staff and Mr. Trump finds out they are on the property, the president will seek them out. “Those are incidents when we have prayed for him and for his administration,” Moore said.
“Not to mention we have a lot of reasons to be incredibly grateful for the promises Trump has made and fulfilled – astonishing achievements in the first year when it comes to religious liberty and the courts and sanctity of human life, and all these issues we care about.”
While these religious and secular leaders have combined to accomplish some very good things, there are dangers to be considered. The foundation is being laid for this extreme development. “In the last conflict the Sabbath will be the special point of controversy throughout all Christendom. Secular rulers and religious leaders will unite to enforce the observance of the Sunday…” The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, page 444.