The next few posts will be devoted to brief profiles of Trump’s cabinet picks from separation of church and state and science literacy standpoints.
Rex Tillerson-Sec. of State: former CEO of Exxon Mobil; as CEO rejected a push by shareholders to pivot to renewables; not a climate change denier but not a fan of renewables either-continues to see extensive use of fossil fuels as viable; he is on the national board of the boy scouts of America and was a key figure in getting them to reverse their ban on membership for openly gay youths; none of the articles I’ve read indicate that he is particularly religious.
General James Mattis (USMC, Ret.)-Defense Sec.: Trump compared him to Patton; nickname is Mad Dog; his appointment required a Congressional waiver of the rule that the military is always under civilian control; former fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford; Well-read; has devoted his life to study of war; no spouse or children; little is known about his religious beliefs.
Jeff Sessions-Attorney General: During early stage of confirmation hearings he expressed doubt about whether individuals with secular worldview are able to understand truth whereas religious believers are more able to discern truth, and there are reports coming out of the DOJ that he would get rid of career lawyers he deemed not sufficiently religious; he was rejected for a seat on the federal bench based on his well-documented racist views and attempts to disenfranchise African-Americans; believes that the doctrine of separation of church and state has been interpreted too broadly; has questioned whether being born in the US automatically makes someone a citizen even though the 14th Amendment says that it does; opposes same sex marriage; fought against funding for gay student groups in court; thinks the DOJ’s civil rights division has been too activist; immigrants are taking welfare payments/funds away from Americans; he’s a fundamentalist Christian who argued on behalf of a judge who had posted the 10 commandments in his courtroom and started court with a prayer; raised in a household that believed in segregation; supported the SCOTUS decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act; voted against making it a federal hate crime to attack someone based on sexual orientation; called the ACLU and NAACP un-American; an honoree of and hero to an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist group; argued that any criteria can be used for an immigration ban including religion and favored a religious test for evaluating potential immigrants; doesn’t agree with Roe v. Wade.
Gen. John Kelly (USMC, Ret.)-Homeland Security: claims to not agree with Muslim registry or any security decisions or policies based only on religious beliefs
Mike Pompeo-CIA: anti-choice; has supported fast-tracking new gas pipelines; opposes renewable energy sources; a human-induced climate change skeptic; opposes the Affordable Care Act; made anti-Muslim statements after the Marathon bombing claiming that any Muslims who do not denounce attacks are complicit in them
Tom Price-HHS: anti-choice; wants to defund Planned Parenthood; as a six-term congressman has a 100% right to life/anti-choice voting record; opposes contraceptive coverage for women; also an anti-vaxxer; has opposed civil rights legislation for LGBTQ individuals.
Betsy DeVos-Education: conservative Christian-supports voucher system that diverts money from public schools to parochial/religious schools; supports publicly funded, privately-run religious charter schools; has stated that her involvement in education reflected her goal “to advance God’s Kingdom”; STEM advocates are concerned that she will advocate for the teaching of creationism in the public schools because her family foundation has donated large sums of money to organizations that promote Intelligent Design (creationism).
Nikki Haley-UN: pro-life; As Governor of South Carolina, she said she would not sign legislation that would require trans individuals to use bathrooms corresponding to their biological sex at birth; She had supported keeping the Confederate flag flying at the South Carolina State House, but changed her mind after the Charleston massacre, and ordered it removed
Ryan Zinke-Interior: Has said that human-caused climate change is not proven science but has also said he believes in it and signed a letter to Obama asking him to act on the threat; anti-choice; anti-ACA; terrible voting record on environmental legislation.
Some might question whether it matters that the head of the CIA is anti-choice and a climate change skeptic or that the Secretary of the Interior opposes abortion rights. I believe that when anyone’s worldview is predominantly anti-science and/or predicated on fundamentalist religious beliefs, the manner in which they execute their duties, whatever those duties are, will be informed by those beliefs. A CIA director who doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change will not see it as the threat to national security, and global economic and geopolitical stability that it actually is. As a result, intelligence gathering activities and priorities might be significantly affected. This is but one example, and, of course it is speculative, but the possibilities for error are real. We’ll look at more advisors in the next blog.
Thanks for reading.