President Donald Trump gave Bible literacy legislation a shout-out on Monday with a tweet praising states that are “starting to make a turn back” to an unspecified time when public schools apparently relished in Bible study.
As The Washington Post’s Mark Chancy noted, there was no such time in American history.
And as Trump’s former pastor noted, in any case, the president can’t exactly speak with much authority on the subject.
Pastor David Lewicki responded to Trump’s tweet on Tuesday morning, explaining how he served as a pastor at New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church for about five years in the mid-aughts.
Despite being on the member rolls, Trump never showed. Not to Bible study ― and not even to a service, according to Lewicki.
“I assure you, he had the ‘option’ to come to Bible study. He never ‘opted’ in,” Lewicki wrote. “Nor did he ever actually enter the church doors. Not one time.”
The pastor then followed up with a pointed quote attributed to Irish political figure Edmund Burke: “Hypocrisy can afford to be magnificent in its promises, for never intending to go beyond promise, it costs nothing.”
At one point, the president did attend Marble. The Trump family migrated to the Manhattan church from a Presbyterian establishment near their home in Queens during the 1960s, when Marble was led by the Rev. Norman Vincent Peale. The president’s father was a particular fan of Peale, a famous minister who authored The Power of Positive Thinking. (Peale’s son, though, is no fan of Trump.)
On the campaign trail, Trump spoke about his religious upbringing and even name-checked Marble, where he married his first wife.
In a rare move, though, the church issued a statement clarifying that Trump was not an “active” member.
After his tweet received a bit more attention than expected, Lewicki told HuffPost that he just meant to point out the president’s religious track record ― or lack thereof.
“He was not an active and visible member of the church, no,” the pastor confirmed.
Lewicki, who now lives in Georgia, told HuffPost that Marble offered an array of weekly Bible study classes during his tenure there. He could not say whether Trump spoke about the Bible or anything else in private with the church’s senior leadership, but Lewicki said he did not recall seeing any member of the Trump clan at Marble from about 2004 to 2010.
The president’s relationship with Christian faith is seen by many as insincere. Although he won support among evangelicals, Trump has an odd history of bungling his Bible references, once referring to the New Testament book 2 Corinthians (usually called “Second Corinthians”) as “Two Corinthians.” Students at the evangelical Liberty University reportedly snickered.
The president’s strong public support of Bible study legislation ― an apparent reaction to a “Fox and Friends” segment ― raised eyebrows elsewhere on Twitter too. A number of people on the president’s favorite social media platform pointed to specific Trump administration policies that seem to violate basic teachings of the Bible.
Earlier on Monday, the conservative morning show reported that at least six states recently introduced Bible literacy legislation, some of which would promote the teaching of the Bible’s influence on history.
The American Civil Liberties Union has labeled similar legislation a technically legal but very difficult thing to implement.
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