Trump Officials Callously Using Pittsburgh Massacre to Demonize Nonreligious, Advance Christian Privilege

For Immediate Release: October 30, 2018
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Trump administration’s response to the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history has been disgraceful, said the Center for Inquiry, taking the president and his lieutenants to task for their eagerness to falsely assign blame to the nonreligious.

On Saturday, a white nationalist, radicalized Christian man massacred eleven Jewish men and women at the Squirrel Hill synagogue in Pittsburgh. According to reports, he had ranted online that the services provided by a Jewish refugee relief agency amounted to complicity in an “invasion” by immigrants, echoing a common white nationalist trope.

Rather than show genuine sympathy for the victims or condemn the bigoted misinformation that fed the murderer’s delusions, Trump attempted to shift responsibility for the murders to the Squirrel Hill congregation for failing to employ armed guards at their synagogue. The next day, Trump strategist Kellyanne Conway went on national cable news to blame the nonreligious, citing “the anti-religiosity in this country that is somehow in vogue,” and, callously raising the specter of the 2015 church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, said, “This is no time to be driving God out of the public square.”

“Our capacity for disgust at the willingness of this administration to twist abhorrent crimes to support their campaign for Christian privilege has been tested once more,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “At a time when our leaders should be seeking to bring the nation together, and condemning this brutal, depraved act born out of bigotry, their first thought is instead how they can portray it to their advantage.”

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking to a meeting of the right-wing Federalist Society, used the massacre as a political frame for his Orwellian ‘Religious Liberty Task Force.’ CFI has repeatedly warned that the purpose of the Task Force is to enable religiously-based discrimination and to exempt Christian businesses and individuals from generally applicable laws.

“Rooting out discrimination is a wonderful goal, and one that CFI shares. But Attorney General Sessions hasn’t given us a reason to trust that ending discrimination will be the real focus of the ‘Religious Liberty Task Force.'” said Jason Lemieux, Government Affairs Director of CFI. “That’s because Attorney General Sessions is preoccupied with enabling bigots in their bigotry over the rights and dignity of all other Americans.”

“If the Attorney General wanted us to believe that he values religious freedom for all over his narrow interpretation of Christianity,” said Lemieux, “the far-right Federalist Society was the wrong venue to announce this policy. A task force that truly values religious freedom will defend that right for all Americans, including people of all faiths and people of no faith at all.”

“While the Trump administration promotes nationalist rage, xenophobic paranoia, outrageous conspiracies, and overt Christian supremacy, it is apparently unable or unwilling to recognize its own role in creating the conditions that have led to this moment,” said Little. “Administration officials are pointing the finger at everyone but themselves, and one wonders if there are enough dead cats in the world for them to swing at all of their targets for blame.”

# # #

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at