It is no secret that most white evangelical Christians in the country voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But one recent survey finds that, if the election were tomorrow, his margin of victory with white evangelical voters would be just 38 points, dramatically down from his advantage of 61 points over Hillary Clinton. Evangelical voters are having second thoughts.
We are a white evangelical married couple living in Georgia. We have both worked on evangelical missions across various cultural contexts, and are absolutely committed to upholding the dignity and value of all human life, including those who are not yet born. But having witnessed the negative effects that the administration has had on vulnerable people, particularly refugees and other immigrants, we are among the significant number of evangelical Christians who will not vote for the president again.
Our critical values have not changed since 2016. We were uncomfortable back then with the credible reports of his marital infidelities, his bullying tone, and disparaging comments on immigrants. But we also were, and certainly still are, deeply committed to protecting the lives of children in the womb and the freedom to practice our faith without interference. We felt that we had chosen the lesser of two evils when we voted.
While the president has delivered on some issues of concern to us, such as economic reforms and trade deals, his immigration policies are cruel, undermining his pledges to life and religious freedom. For instance, while we cherish unborn lives, we also value the lives of thousands of children who were separated from their mothers or fathers by the “zero tolerance” policies of the administration at the Mexican border in 2018.
Our commitment to life also compels us to do everything that we can to end human trafficking. The administration has decided to suspend the life saving elements of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the passage of which evangelical Christians proudly championed under George Bush and the flouting of which evangelical ministries like World Vision and International Justice Mission have decried.
Our convictions on life also are why we strongly believe the United States should continue to be, in the famous words of George Washington, “a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong.” Rather than continue the life saving tradition of asylum and resettlement of refugees, the administration has shut out persecuted refugees with its immigration policies.
Denying asylum to those fleeing persecution is not a commitment to life. Since many are fleeing persecution on account of their faith, it undercuts the pledge of the president on religious freedom. As the alarming findings from evangelical ministries Open Doors and World Relief note, the number of refugees from countries where Christians face the most persecution is on track for a decline of 90 percent this year versus 2016.
This is not what the president promised to evangelical voters. During his first week in office, he criticized the previous administration for admitting too few Syrian refugees and promised to assist them. But then, just hours after he made that pledge, he signed an executive order that dramatically restricted the number of refugees to enter the United States, including an indefinite ban on all Syrian refugees. Indeed, fewer Syrian Christians have been resettled in the almost four years of the current administration than in the last year that Barack Obama was in office alone.
With these harsh policies, the president has lost our votes. That does not necessarily mean we will vote for Joe Biden, but our consciences will not allow us to vote for Trump again. We believe he could change his mind. He could set the refugee ceiling at the historical normal of 95,000. He could restore the asylum program. He could also work with Congress to pass the immigration reforms based on restitution, advocated by a broad range of evangelical Christians, that would create a new legal pathway to eventual citizenship, which Bush and Obama tried but failed to do.
We know it might take a miracle for the president to reverse course on his immigration policies at this point. But unless he does so, he will forfeit our votes and, as the polls suggest, many others as well.
Ryan Hurlburt and Katharine Hurlburt are voters who are based in Georgia.