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Trump’s evangelical advisers discussed transgender ban at White House meeting

Ronnie Floyd, from left, Rodney Howard-Browne, Adonica Howard-Browne, Johnnie Moore, and Paula White stand behind President Trump as he talks with evangelical supporters in the Oval Office at the White House. Photo courtesy of Johnnie Moore

(RNS) — President Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military seemed spontaneous and reportedly caught some administration officials and congressional leaders by surprise.


RELATED: Religious leaders respond to Trump’s transgender military ban


But evangelical Christian leaders who informally advise the president discussed reversing the year-old policy two weeks ago at a meeting arranged by White House staff in Washington, D.C.

The discussion came during a previously reported daylong meeting of evangelical leaders — including a number who had been on Trump’s evangelical advisory board during the campaign — on July 10 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The building is next door to the White House and  houses the offices of most of the White House staff. Various staff members were present throughout the meeting, listening and taking notes, said one of those who attended the meeting, evangelical author and public relations consultant Johnnie Moore.

It’s not the administration propagandizing,” he said. “It’s religious leaders, it’s the administration sitting at the table, taking notes, listening to them, asking questions and vice versa, and attempting to understand the needs of the community.”

Moore said the policy on transgender people serving in the military had not been on the agenda for the meeting. It was one of many topics that came up throughout the day, including health care, taxes, religious liberty and judicial appointments.

“We briefly discussed this issue,” Moore said.

But earlier this week, the evangelicals followed up with  a signed letter asking the president to reverse the Obama era policy allowing transgender people to serve in the military, Moore added.

Moore said the evangelicals were more concerned about the  nomination of an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The White House on Wednesday announced President Trump plans to nominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to fill that position.

Photos shared widely on Twitter showed evangelical leaders laying hands on the president in prayer afterward in the Oval Office.

“When we went to the Oval Office, we didn’t discuss a single issue. We just prayed with the president,” Moore said.

The letter urging the president to reverse the policy was written by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who was also at the meeting, and signed by a number of prominent evangelicals, according to Moore. He did not know if the president had read the letter.

The announcement of the ban on Wednesday (July 26) drew both cheers and condemnation from leaders of all faiths.

But there will be no change to the military’s policy “until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance,” according to internal communication reported on by Politico.

The New York Times and other outlets reported the ban came in response to a fight on Capitol Hill over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender people in the military.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

61 Comments

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  • Evangelical leaders were consulted but not generals. Mattis was swamped with requests by military high ups to try to prevent this ban.

  • Wow! Evangelical leaders are now experts on the military. Who knew?

    Not them!

    They can’t get away so much with attacking gay people, and they failed miserably in preventing the end of DADT. All of their dire predictions about men in tutus, massive sexual assaults on poor defenseless heterosexual men, and mass resignations just didn’t seem to happen.

    Meanwhile, they are bashing trans people who want to serve their country. I guess there are no further problems with starving children, kiddy diddling priests, or the 5 billion people who are going to burn in hell forever because they didn’t hear the Jesus sca… I mean, message.

    And these are people who presume to lecture ME about morals?

  • When I first read Pres. Trump’s tweets I was disappointed, but I understood that the military is a very different sort of community, where cohesion and uniformity are so important that common freedoms in the rest of society are often suspended or modified, so I accepted it. Then the ranking member of Senate Armed Svcs. came out that they are not done even looking at the costs in terms of medical for everything and are nowhere near ready to make recommendations. Then I find out that the Pentagon had no idea about this announcement, and zero generals come forward to say, “Yeah, I was a part of this.” And now this. I am no longer understanding and accepting of the decision. It’s despicable.

  • It’s was trumps way of saying “don’t look at don jr. or Jared” and the evangelical way of trying to reclaim their market share on the backs of people who aren’t bothering anyone but them.

  • I hope that the Catholic priests in particular were consulting Trump on these policies because they are very righteous.

  • “Evangelical leaders” they are a disruption to what is needed when it comes to the needs of others, others they have no intention of ever knowing.

  • That’s an OLD photo. Has nothing to do with this article. That’s blatant dishonesty.

  • “Wow! Evangelical leaders are now experts on the military. Who knew?”

    No real surprise, after all, they did invent the “culture war.”

  • So Trump only pays attention to the religious far right and cares not a hoot for the religious mainstream and the growing % of Americans without religious affiliation. The Awful Oaf in the Offal Office is not the president of all the people, just those aligned with Falwell Jr and Graham Jr.

  • It has plenty to do with the article, considering the article ‘s focus on the fact that evangelical leaders lobbied the WH to ban transgender service members on the same day they prayed with him in the OO.

  • apparently we now have evangelical leaders running the white house and our govt. for years they have been losing power and their numbers shrinking, but with gullible trump, our secular govt is in danger of being taken over by fanatical christians who would like nothing better than to establish christianity as our national religion. democrats seem to know when they are trampling on the religious freedom of non christians and non believers, they know there is a line they cannot cross, republicans say their is no line.

    Religious freedom is in the mind, the beliefs, the ‘exercise’ of it has limits. No animal sacrifice, no breaking of civil law, no plural marriage, and no trampling or canceling out the beliefs of others.

  • Hate the book. Love the book followers. Then, educate the book followers, cause they don’t read their book.

    That’s my motto.

  • I thought Trump was a “Presbyterian.” Why doesn’t he consult the teachings of his own church? Or better yet, if the president is going to have religious advisors, have a council consisting of Christian (evangelical, mainline Protestant, pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox), Jewish (Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform), Muslim (Sunni and Shiite), Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Indigenous Religions, Neo-Pagan Religions, Agnostics, Atheists, etc….. THAT would be a religious advisory council which would represent the citizens of the United States.

  • Nothing like changing the subject, is there? Do you have a real comment which has anything to do with what I actually said?

    “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” — the Word of God

  • NT or OT? Or shall we throw it open to other texts? Analects of Confucius? Hadith? Or perhaps the one and only, the Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla, the all time undisputed champion of crazy, the Book of Mormon? ?

  • To be called “evangelical” you first have to know what the word means. What these religious persons exercise is not a message of Good News (euangelion, Greek for ‘good news’). Their biggest problem is trying to separate the tares from the wheat and separate sheep and goats. In other words they play God. They are sectarians – those who have separated themselves by their desires for purity. They are the bullies in God’s playground.

  • Since this thread is about evangelicals, the Bible in its entirety is applicable.

  • Democrats have left Bible-believing Christians out of their “spiritual advisory boards”. (Obama’s pastor of 20 years was Jeremiah Wright, but he was too problematic for Obama to officially recognize him.) I don’t know if theirs have included all the ones you listed, do you?

  • And you know this how?

    Either way, using the photo with this article is dishonest.

  • Do you think judges and the supreme court cared about what most Americans thought about homosexual “marriage”? Of course not.

  • Then perhaps they should get back to doing that–instead of making up new laws, which isn’t their job.

  • Try googling Faith based and Neighborhood Partnerships to see – members varied over the two terms.

  • I am having huge difficulty with Trump and his religious advisory group. More to the point, I am having huge difficulty with guidance as to military policy that is apparently contrary to their religious doctrine yet they appear to be okay with Trump “confusing” their input with his non-consultation with the Pentagon – no one called him out on it as far as I can determine.

    And if they want to serve as military advisors, I suggest they take a course on the ethics of war, the Geneva Convention etc etc given the President’s endorsement of waterboarding and other forms of torture. as well as just war doctrine. Otherwise they have put themselves in an awkward position that is self-serving.

    In this instance, I will stick with Rand’s report. http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_briefs/RB9900/RB9909/RAND_RB9909.pdf

  • Then you should be all for them Applying the civil rights act to freedom from discrimination on he basis of religious belief. Because that IS the law.

    But no. Special snowflake Christians don’t have to obey that law, because that’s just a little too much rendering to Caesar.

  • I do not believe that is true. And even if it were the case—-two wrongs do not make a right. As I mentioned—-ALL American religious perspectives should be represented. (You will note I inclued “evangelicals” in my comment above. And btw, the term “Bible believing Christians” is rather offensive. That implies that those who do not take every word of the Bible literally do not take the Bible seriously. Additionally, it is Jesus we are to trust and believe in, not the Bible.

  • My guess is that President Trump did not ask for feedback from the LGBT community regarding the request for the ban made by some evangelicals. And this fact reflects on who is represented by our government. In fact, even the military was not consulted despite Trump’s claims to the contrary.

    At the same time, some of these evangelicals, while reveling in their “victory,” don’t know they are being played. This ban and the appointment of Brownback are bones thrown to satisfy their appetites. The real driver of the government is business and in accepting what President Trump gave them, these evangelicals have to swallow hard what Trump does from the dictates of business.

  • Other than nearly every federal district and appellate court judge and five Supreme Court justices. If anti gay bigots weren’t so malicious, the courts wouldn’t have gotten involved in the first place.

  • Since when has Trump told the WHOLE truth about anything, especially his taxes. His generals have no problems with trans soldiers until now. No General Officer(s) has been named as opposing trans soldiers, so is it just the religious hypocrites who have taken up the anti-trans hate to a gullible Trump.

  • Everyone in America, citizen or not deserves Equal Protection under the law. The Courts have to apply the law without prejudice of the masses nor minorities. Without Equal Protection the tyranny of majority would apply.
    JP has free speech no matter how biased it is because it is our law.

  • So many have forgotten the HIS message which was then and still remains simple. Love one another as you love ME. You don’t need any other book or interpretation to get THE message.

  • The costs of medical have been estimated to be LESS than 0.014% of the cost of military. medical budget. This tiny number shows how SPECIOUS the arguments of COST is. The LIE of “unit cohesion” was used to keep non-whites out of the military, or only serving in the most menial of jobs. Then the lie was applied to women in combat, then gays, now transgender are the target. Who is next? Atheists, Buddhists???

  • Why does the President need a spiritual advisory board? How many past Presidents have a spiritual advisory board? Did Truman have one when he had the Atomic Bomb dropped on Japan? Or Lincoln have one in the only war to kill more Americans than all other wars combined. Some 618,000 Americans died to keep slavery, shame on us.

  • How do I know this? It’s the article’s headline. What do you think “discussed” means in this context? It wasn’t a cocktail party. A date for the photo would have been helpful, however.

  • Obergefell was not an Equal Protection case. And “tyranny of the majority” was not the rule of the day before the 14th Amendment. It was, as its framers stated, enacted not to address any systemic problem in the structure of our government or to change the existing relations between states and their citizens, but to solve the problem of former slaves’ lack of citizenship which had left them without the same life-liberty-property protections enjoyed by full citizens. Or in the simplest possible terms, to get rid of the “Black Codes.”

  • It contained no equal protection analysis whatsoever. You obviously have not read the opinion.

  • Via press release:

    Fifty-six retired General and Flag Officers provided the following statement to the Palm Center today:

    “The Commander in Chief has tweeted a total ban of honorably serving transgender troops. This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.

    “As a result, the proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving— and who want to serve—must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity.

    “President Trump seeks to ban transgender service members because of the financial cost and disruption associated with transgender military service. We respectfully disagree, and consider these claims to be without merit. The RAND Corporation, as well as research in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year.

    “This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget. As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders. Eighteen foreign nations, including the UK and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve, and none has reported any detriment to readiness.

    “Recently, two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken courageous stands in support of our transgender service members. General Martin Dempsey said of our transgender troops that, ‘The service of men and women who volunteer and who meet our standards of service is a blessing, not a burden.’

    “And Admiral Mike Mullen stated that, ‘I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards. Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require. The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness.’ Admiral Mullen urged civilian leaders ‘to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.’ We could not agree more.”

    General John R. Allen, USMC (Retired)
    General Robert W. Sennewald, USA (Retired)
    Vice Admiral Donald Arthur, USN (Retired)
    Lieutenant General Robert Gard, USA (Retired)
    Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin, USMC (Retired)
    Vice Admiral Kevin P. Green, USN (Retired)
    Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, USAF (Retired)
    Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Retired)
    Lieutenant General Willie Williams, USMC (Retired)
    Major General Juan G. Ayala, USMC (Retired)
    Major General Donna Barbisch, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Chris Cole, USN (Retired)
    Major General Vance Coleman, USA (Retired)
    Major General J. Gary Cooper, USMC (Retired)
    Major General Paul Eaton, USA (Retired)
    Major General Mari K. Eder, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral F. Stephen Glass, USN (Retired)
    Major General Richard S. Haddad, USAF (Retired)
    Major General Irv Halter, USAF (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Jan Hamby, USN (Retired)
    Major General Marcelite J. Harris, USAF (Retired)
    Rear Admiral John Hutson, JAGC, USN (Retired)
    Major General James R. Klugh, Sr., USA (Retired)
    Major General Dennis Laich, USA (Retired)
    Major General Randy Manner, USA (Retired)
    Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, USA (Retired)
    Major General John Phillips, USAF (Retired)
    Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, USA (Retired)
    Major General Gale Pollock, CRNA, FACHE, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, USN (Retired)
    Major General Patricia Rose, USAF (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Retired)
    Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Retired)
    Major General Peggy Wilmoth, MSS, RN, USA (Retired)
    Major General Maggie Woodward, USAF (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Dick Young, USN (Retired)
    Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General Ricardo Aponte, USAF (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, USN (Retired)
    Brigadier General David Brahms, USMC (Retired)
    Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Retired)
    Brigadier General Julia Cleckley, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach, USN (Retired)
    Brigadier General John Douglass, USAF (Retired)
    Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General Judy M. Griego, NMANG (Retired)
    Brigadier General David R. Irvine, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General John H. Johns, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Gene Kendall, USN (Retired)
    Brigadier General Thomas Kolditz, PhD, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General Carlos E. Martinez, USAF (Retired)
    Brigadier General Ronald Rokosz, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General John M. Schuster, USA (Retired)
    Rear Admiral Michael E. Smith, USN (Retired)
    Brigadier Paul Gregory Smith, USA (Retired)
    Brigadier General Marianne Watson, USA (Retired)

  • I haven’t. So I just did. Here are some quotes from the text:

    “Same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association, a right extending beyond mere freedom from laws making same-sex intimacy a criminal offense.”

    “The right of same-sex couples to marry is also derived from the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection”

    “The challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and they abridge central precepts of equality.The marriage laws at issue are in essence unequal: Same-sex couples are denied benefits afforded opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial works a grave and continuing harm, serving to disrespect and subordinate gays and lesbians.”

    “There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle. Yet by virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage. This harm results in more than just material burdens. Same-sex couples are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would deem intolerable in their own lives.”

  • So, why would you presume to assert that a case you haven’t read is a “textbook case” of anything?

    Kennedy mentioned the equal protection clause in passing, likely to buttress his flimsy due process argument. But he conducted absolutely no equal protection analysis, which necessitates the exploration of “suspect classifications” and appropriate levels of scrutiny. If no such analysis is done, and relied upon in conclusion, then any mention of “equal protection” is merely dicta with no precedent value.

    Many who otherwise supported the Obergefell decision were bitterly disappointed that it ignored equal protection, for they were counting on a “suspect class” ruling. The SCOTUS’ refusal to touch that was absolutely intentional.

  • Do you have a real copy of this supposed letter from evangelical leaders? Or is this just more propaganda? Just trying to stir the pot more? You should be ashamed of yourself if you pass this on without proof.

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