World, Americas

Religious right blinds Trump's virus response: Opinion

'February 2020 will go down in history as month in which US failed to develop mass testing,' says Katherine Stewart

Beyza Binnur Donmez   | 27.03.2020
Religious right blinds Trump's virus response: Opinion

ANKARA

U.S. President Donald Trump's response to coronavirus has been "haunted" by "science denialism of his ultraconservative Evangelical allies," the American journalist and author Katherine Stewart said Friday.

Stewart claimed in an opinion piece penned for The New York Times that Trump's "tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction."

"But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base," she wrote, saying that the president's messages are coming from "his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures," during his daily briefings at White House.

"This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis," she said. "On March 15, Guillermo Maldonado, who calls himself an 'apostle' and hosted Mr. Trump earlier this year at a campaign event at his Miami megachurch, urged his congregants to show up for worship services in person. 'Do you believe God would bring his people to his house to be contagious with the virus? Of course not,' he said."

Saying that not every pastor is behaving "recklessly", Stewart added: "Yet none of the benign uses of religion in this time of crisis have anything to do with Mr. Trump’s expressed hope that the country would be 'opened up and just raring to go by Easter.'"

"He could, of course, have said, 'by mid-April.' But Mr. Trump did not invoke Easter by accident, and many of his evangelical allies were pleased by his vision of 'packed churches all over our country,'" she added.

She said that religious nationalism has brought to American politics the conviction that the political differences in the country are a battle between "absolute evil" and "absolute good".

"February 2020 will go down in history as the month in which the United States, in painful contrast with countries like South Korea and Germany, failed to develop the mass testing capability that might have saved many lives," she wrote. "Less well known is the contribution of the Christian nationalist movement in ensuring that our government is in the hands of people who appear to be incapable of running it well."

Stewart claimed that the "failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations."

The U.S. became the country where most coronavirus-related cases have been seen in the world with more than 86,000 cases, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. The U.S. has now 1,301 fatalities from the epidemic, while more than 750 people recovered so far.

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