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Eugene Scott: Pence’s faith reason why evangelicals trust him

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Eugene Scott, Syndicated Columnist

Omarosa Manigault Newman seems to be committed to giving Celebrity Big Brother viewers hoping to hear insider dirt on the Trump White House all they could wish for.

Eugene Scott
Eugene Scott

The former West Wing staffer, who Politico reported Tuesday was fired for violating federal government policies for using the White House car service as a pickup and drop-off service, returned to the medium that first made her famous: reality TV.

Last week the former Apprentice contestant told a fellow cast member that Americans should be scared and that "it's not going to be OK."

This week, Newman, who is an ordained minister, sharpened her attacks on Vice President Pence, a respected leader among conservative white evangelicals. She told fellow contestants:

"As bad as y'all think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence," she said. "So everybody that's wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their lives. We would be begging for days of Trump back if Pence became president."

"He's extreme," Omarosa said of the vice president. "I'm Christian. I love Jesus. But he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I'm like, 'Jesus ain't saying that.'"

It's easy to dismiss Newman's comments as the meaningless musings of a jilted former staffer. But what concerns her about Trump's No. 2 is exactly what drew many evangelicals to support Trump in the first place -- and continue to support him. More than 80 percent of white evangelicals backed Trump and Pence in the 2016 election.

Pence has the bona fide evangelical credentials that have convinced many evangelicals that the Trump presidency is capable of guiding the nation back toward conservative Christianity.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who has praised Pence for the role his faith plays in his policymaking, told Politico that evangelicals support Trump because they were "tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there's somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully."

And while not a brash fighter like the president, Pence has been engaging the culture wars far longer than his boss, something celebrated by Capitol Ministries founder Ralph Drollinger.

CBN White House Correspondent Jennifer Wishon wrote that Drollinger sees important similarities between Pence and biblical figures like Joseph, Mordecai and Daniel -- men who served in the No. 2 position in governments during biblical times:

"Mike Pence has respect for the office. He dresses right -- like it says Joseph cleaned himself up before he went to stand before the pharaoh," he told CBN News.

"Mike Pence has uncompromising biblical tenacity and he has a loving tone about him that's not just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal," he continued. "And then fourthly, he brings real value to the head of the nation."

It is this view of Pence that is part of why evangelicals backed Trump, a twice-divorced president accused of sexual assault, who is profane in his characterization of other Americans with whom he does not agree and does not appear to display some the same values that many conservative strands of Christianity espouse.

But the question Americans outside of evangelicalism are asking themselves is what impact could Pence's faith have on the majority of Americans who do not share his conservative Christian-based beliefs.

Pence's past views and policies on LGBT issues have become part of the story line during the Olympics after bronze medalist Adam Rippon reportedly declined the opportunity to meet with the vice president in part due to his past comments on LGBT issues.

Pence, like many conservative Christians, has expressed opposition to same-sex marriage based on his religious beliefs. The vice president's worldview is part of why gay rights organizations like the Human Rights Campaign have called the Trump White House one of the most hostile to LGBT rights.

And while at least partial credit goes to Pence for the Trump White House being called the most supportive administration of conservative evangelicals in history, Americans who do not share Pence's faith are wondering what "Make America Great Again" means for them.

Whether other Americans of faith -- or without faith -- believe Pence will advocate for their worldview in Oval Office meetings could determine just how much they support or oppose the GOP in upcoming elections.

EUGENE SCOTT is a contributor to The Washington Post and writes about identity politics for The Fix.