Religion and Politics in the Era of Trump: Two Views from the White House

On the first anniversary of Trump’s presidency, join us as Peter Wehner and Melissa Rogers, two former White House officials, reflect on the changing patterns of religious influence on U.S. culture and politics.

The presidency of Donald Trump has altered the American political landscape and the religious contours that shape it. While the nation’s “culture wars” have long divided Americans over abortion, gay marriage, and other hot button issues, the country now faces even deeper divides that are fracturing a cultural consensus once taken for granted. Some religious minorities have become targets of recent attack, while other religious groups have used their majority status to reinforce tribalism, nativism, and “identitarian” politics. Such trends challenge other roles that religious actors and ideas have played holding the nation and its leaders accountable, including a long history of civic engagement by many religious groups who have contributed vitally to the pursuit of freedom, justice, and democracy.

Reflecting on the first year of the Trump presidency, this event will feature Peter Wehner and Melissa Rogers, two former White House officials, who will explore how past administrations have understood the role religion plays in American society and how government officials have interpreted and facilitated that role in the executive branch. On the first anniversary of the Trump presidency, they will also discuss recent religious dynamics in the nation’s political life and consider what constructive role religion might yet play to bridge the deep divisions within the country.


Peter Wehner is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the director of EPPC’s Faith Angle Forum. He writes widely on political, cultural, religious, and national-security issues. In 2015 he was named a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and has also written for the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Christianity Today, Time magazine as well as appearing on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC. Mr. Wehner served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush Administrations prior to becoming deputy director of speechwriting for President George W. Bush. He was also a senior adviser to the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign. Wehner is author of "City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era" (co-authored with Michael J. Gerson) and "Wealth and Justice: The Morality of Democratic Capitalism" (co-authored with Arthur C. Brooks).

Melissa Rogers is a nonresident senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution. During the Obama administration, Rogers served as special assistant to the president and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She previously served as chair of the inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Prior to that she was director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University Divinity School. Rogers has also served as executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. Her area of expertise includes the First Amendment's religion clauses, religion in American public life, and the interplay of religion, policy, and politics. She has co-authored a case book on religion and law entitled "Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court" (Baylor University Press, 2008). She holds a JD from University of Pennsylvania Law School and a BA from Baylor University.

Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict
Jan 29 2018 - 4:35pm
Marston Theater, Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV
Tempe campus