On the eve of signing a controversial "religious freedom" executive order, President Donald Trump spent time with a right wing pastor who has vehemently opposed LGBTQ rights.Trump's social media director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted a photo of the president posing happily with Pastor Robert Jeffress in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, a far-right mega-church leader in Texas, first rose to national political prominence during the 2012 presidential campaign, when he partnered with then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry's (R) candidacy and had some unkind words for rival Mitt Romney.Specifically, Jeffress targeted Romney's faith, saying the Republican was "a member of a cult."A controversy soon followed, and much of the country learned of Jeffress' record of over-the-top extremism on issues throughout the so-called "culture war," with the Texas pastor having lashed out at everyone from gays to Mormons to Catholics. As recently as two years ago, Jeffress insisted that Christians in the United States are persecuted in ways comparable to Germany's treatment of Jews before the Holocaust.New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) once said to associate with Robert Jeffress was "beneath the office of president of the United States."And yet, here we are.
Jeffress also tweeted a picture of himself alongside Trump and Vice President Mike Pence at the White House. This wasn't just a grip-and-grin at some fundraiser; Jeffress was given access to the nation's most powerful leaders.There was a time that leading U.S. officials wouldn't want to be seen in the same room as a fringe radical like Jeffress. In 2017, however, he's welcomed into the White House, where Donald Trump met with him in the Oval Office.So, Chris Christie, is this still "beneath the office of president of the United States"?Postscript: During last year's campaign, Jeffress said he was supporting Trump's candidacy because it's "biblical" to support a "strongman" in government. The president appears to now be rewarding that support.