What Does Trump's Promise Of A Nation 'Under One God' Really Mean?

What Does Trump's Promise Of A Nation 'Under One God' Really Mean?

2:57pm Sep 18, 2016

Talking about God is pretty standard for American politicians. But a line that has been popping up often in Donald Trump's recent campaign speeches seems to go further.

At a recent gathering of conservative Christians in Washington, D.C., Trump promised that if he is elected president, "we will be one American nation." The Republican nominee quoted the Bible and spelled out his vision for American unity:

"Imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people, under one God, saluting one flag," Trump said, drawing enthusiastic applause from the crowd at the Values Voter Summit.

It's the phrase "one God" that's catching the ear of some groups, who argue it is at odds with the American promise of religious freedom.

Trump has used the line several times at large campaign rallies and invitation-only speeches in recent weeks: in Philadelphia, near Des Moines, Iowa, and in Asheville, N.C., among other places.

It's not clear what Trump means by it; his campaign hasn't responded to multiple requests for comment from NPR.

The line worries Barry Lynn, executive director of the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"What I hear is someone who simply doesn't understand that one of the great strengths of this country is the diversity of nationalities, of origins — the differences of opinions about religion, and ideas about religion," he said.

Lynn acknowledges that many politicians use religious language, but he says Trump's statement goes "way beyond" working "God Bless America" into a speech, or talking about one's personal faith.

"This is very different because this makes it seem like he, as the president of the United States, could somehow bring us together by converting us all and making sure we salute the same flag," Lynn said.

It's also troubling to some religious groups.

"So when you get a phrase like the one he's using now, it adds to this overall ominous tone that America is going to become about certain types of people first, and everybody else maybe not so much part of the American pie anymore," said Corey Saylor, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization that has been critical of Trump's rhetoric on Muslims and other minority groups.

But Penny Nance, CEO and president of the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America, hears Trump differently.

"I think what Donald Trump was getting at with that comment is this disrespect that people of faith — people who are patriotic Americans, who have served in the military, whose children serve in the military — are feeling right now from the elites in this country, and particularly from some of the institutions," she said.

As an example, Nance points to the NFL and NCAA, whose athletes have refused to stand for the national anthem as an act of protest concerning the treatment of African-Americans in the United States.

"What we hear [from Trump] is a call for unity, a call for really understanding that we are a nation under God," Nance said. "And although as Americans we maybe experience that differently, we see that as essential to our success — as individuals and as a people."

But for CAIR's Saylor, Trump's rhetoric should concern people who believe both in God and in religious freedom.

" 'One God' immediately excludes Hindus, atheists, Native Americans — whole swaths of people who have a right to be part of the American identity," he said. "And under what we've established in this country — the notion that you can have multiple faiths and all still share the same ideal of being American — the campaign is once again just really lopping off support from minorities."

And it's worth noting Trump has been struggling in the polls with minority voters, who could be critical to the outcome in November.

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