By Christopher Lamb
President Donald Trump has thrown religious faith into the heart of the US presidential campaign by claiming that his Democrat rival Joe Biden is “against God.”
During a trip to Ohio, Trump told his supporters that by following a “radical left agenda”, Biden would “take away your guns, destroy your second amendment. No religion, no anything, hurt the Bible, hurt God.”
The president added: “he’s against God, he’s against guns, he’s against energy, our kind of energy.”
Mr Biden, a practising Roman Catholic, swiftly responded to Trump’s comments describing them as “shameful,” and revealing of a “man willing to stoop to any low for political gain.”
The former Vice-President has spoken of his how his faith helped him following the deaths of his wife and daughter in a car crash in 1972 and that he wears the rosary beads – a Catholic prayer aid – of his late son Joseph “Beau” Biden III, who died of cancer aged 46.
“My faith teaches me to love my neighbour as I would myself, while President Trump only seeks to divide us. My faith teaches me to care for the least among us, while President Trump seems to be only concerned about his gilded friends. My faith teaches me to welcome the stranger, while President Trump tears families apart. My faith teaches me to walk humbly, while President Trump teargassed peaceful protestors so he could walk over to a church for a photo op,” Mr Biden said in his statement.
Winning over Christian voters is crucial for Trump to be successful in his re-election bid in November. His 2016 election victory saw him win 81 per cent of white evangelical voters, and 60 per cent of Catholic voters.
But there is evidence that support for the president among this constituency is slipping, pushing Trump to make increasingly overt pitches to his religious base. On 4 August, the president gave another interview to the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), which aims content at Roman Catholics who support Trump.
Following Trump’s latest remarks, John Gehring, Catholic Program Director, Faith in Public Life in Washington DC, talked about how Biden, then Vice-President, invited a dozen Roman Catholic leaders, theologians, advocates to his residence ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to the US in September 2015.
“Biden spoke with authenticity about his faith, listened to our ideas. You can’t fake the sincerity I saw,” Gehring tweeted.
By contrast, President Trump has struggled to articulate what Christianity means to him personally, despite claiming to be a devout believer. In a 2015 Bloomberg interview the businessman and reality TV star refused to name his favourite verse from the Bible, and when asked if he’s a bigger fan of the old or new testament replied: “probably equal.”