Prominent evangelical activist and pastor Tony Perkins has pushed back against the claim that Joe Biden is a “more acceptable” presidential candidate for Christians in 2020 than President Donald Trump as the Biden campaign positions itself to appeal to evangelicals.
Perkins, the head of Family Research Council, a leading social conservative lobbying organization in Washington, D.C., responded to the recent news that the former vice president has hired former Republican Josh Dickson to oversee his campaign’s national faith engagement.
The hiring of Dickson, who reportedly became a Democrat because of his evangelical faith and worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, is an attempt by the Biden campaign to win over faith-based voters. Trump continues to paint himself as a champion for Christians as he touts fulfillment of campaign promises related to abortion, religious liberty and judicial nominations.
With exit polls showing that over 8 in 10 white evangelical voters voted for Trump in 2016 and only 16% voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, there’s been speculation in the media about whether the devout Catholic Biden can attract a higher percentage of conservative-leaning and moderate Christian voters in 2020 as many may be wary of Trump’s divisive tactics.
In an op-ed posted to the FRC website, Perkins, who has participated in events at the Trump White House, called Biden’s new strategy of trying to attract faith voters an ambitious strategy that involves “trying to win over a group of people [he’s] spent the last several years insulting.”
“Maybe Joe Biden, a self-identified Catholic, is personally spiritual. But ‘authentic?’” Perkins asked.
“Surely, no one who's followed his four-decade career could conclude that Biden shares Christians' values where it matters: in the public arena. And yet even Dickson himself tried to sell the former vice president as the real deal because he 'love[s] our neighbor' and ‘care[s] for the poor and vulnerable.’
As Biden is endorsed by the lobbying arm of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, for his support for abortion rights, Perkins asked whether Biden considers “children in the womb” vulnerable as well.
“This is [a] man running on a vision, not only of abortion-on-demand, but abortion right up until — and perhaps after — birth,” he stressed. “To cap it off, for those Americans who do have a biblical or moral objection to abortion, he says they should still have to pay for them with their tax dollars. How does he square ‘authentic’ faith with those radical positions?”
Biden’s views on abortion have evolved through the years, along with the shifting views of the Democratic Party. As a Delaware senator, Biden supported legislation barring the federal government from providing funding for abortion. But he altered his stance on the Hyde Amendment last year after officially announcing his candidacy.
Perkins accused Biden of trading his “40 years of support” for the Hyde amendment for the support of Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights organizations.
During a Democratic presidential debate in February, Biden assured that as president, he would have an abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. He also pointed out that he is “part of the reason” why liberal justices like Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor are on the Supreme Court.
Earlier this month, Biden expressed disappointment in the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, which upheld religious exemptions to a Department of Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate. Critics said that without the exemption, the mandate forces faith-based employers to provide contraception coverage in health plans even if they object morally.
“He told nuns they'd have to fund birth control, churches they'd have to cover abortions, and U.S. taxpayers that overseas abortion would be our newest export,” Perkins warned. “Someone please explain how this is a candidate that can connect with Christians ‘through a shared worldview?’”
He went on to voice concern with Biden’s “radical LGBT advocacy” that he fears could “gut religious liberty” and greatly impact the freedom of Christian schools, Catholic hospitals and faith-based nonprofits to uphold policies consistent with their beliefs on sexuality and marriage.
Perkins criticized Biden for announcing that his No. 1 legislative priority as president would be the passing of the Equality Act. The bill, which passed the House last year but has not had success in the Republican-controlled Senate, would codify LGBT non-discrimination protections into federal law.
“We're talking about a piece of legislation, the Equality Act, that hunts down and punishes the same evangelicals whose vote [Biden] claims to want! One that also ends women's sports, girls' and boys' bathrooms, Christian counseling, privacy laws, conscience protections, millennia of biology, medical ethics, parents' rights.”
Perkins’ op-ed comes amid growing efforts by Never Trump evangelical figures and Republican groups, who are encouraging conservative Christians to reconsider their vote for Trump in 2020.
One Republican organization is spending millions in 2020 on advertisements seeking to convince conservatives and faith-based voters not to vote for Trump, even running a TV commercial that tells Christians that Trump is “using” them.
In June, a new book edited by longtime progressive evangelical leader Ron Sider was released. It features the essays of 30 evangelical Christians explaining why Christians should not vote for Trump.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Sider warned that “evangelicals should not be single-issue or dual-issue voters” focusing solely on issues of religious freedom and abortion but should consider the entirety of Trump’s political stances as well as the president’s past immoral actions and statements.
In a USA Today op-ed last week, Sider urged the Biden campaign to do more to appeal to white evangelicals and implored him to address their concerns related to religious liberty and abortion.
While some argue that Biden is “a more acceptable choice to Christians because he’s less brash and confrontational” than Trump, Perkins said that Biden is not necessarily a “gentlemanly statesman.”
“Biden's tirades in local townhalls have been the stuff of internet legend, as he berates, profanes, and shouts his way through the heartland,” Perkins argued. “If Biden is supposed to be the angel to Trump's devil, no one told him.”
He also pointed out that eight women have accused Biden of sexual misconduct and inappropriate touching. Earlier this year, Biden denied allegations by a former Senate staffer who claims that he reached under her skirt in 1993.
The FRC head stressed that evangelicals don’t support Trump “because he’ll hold up a Bible” but rather because “his policies are based on what's inside.”
“No administration in history has done more for Christians in America and around the world than this president,” Perkins argued. “And I'll be the first to admit that, four years ago, I didn't think that was possible.”
“No one is rationalizing or excusing Trump's failings. But consider what he's accomplished for the unborn, religious liberty, Israel, persecuted minorities, the military, our economy, the family. He's had a backbone of steel to push back against LGBT extremism, political correctness, America's enemies, and the world's tyrants.”