Last week, the White House announced televangelist/prosperity preacher/life-coach Paula White-Cain would head the Faith and Opportunity Initiative as an unpaid advisor.
In 2018, President Trump issued an executive order creating the Faith and Opportunity Initiative. The executive order noted, “The efforts of faith-based and community organizations are essential to revitalizing communities, and the Federal Government welcomes opportunities to partner with such organizations through innovative, measurable, and outcome-driven initiatives.”
But why select White? What are her qualifications? The answer: White has been a loyal supporter of Trump from the very beginning of his presidential campaign.
Predictably, Trump’s critics were energized by the political appointment. Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons told the Associated Press, “The rise of the religious left has been given a shot in the arm every time Trump doubles down on his white evangelical base.”
Someone in the Trump administration should remind the President of an old Reagan administration motto, “Personnel is policy.” The appointment of a scandal-plagued preacher speaks volumes. The Trump administration should be looking for appointments that unify America rather than divide it.
Twelve years ago, White found herself in the public spotlight when Senator Grassley launched an inquiry into alleged financial abuses at six TV ministries.
Trinity Foundation investigated White and Without Walls International Church (WWIC). Our findings were given to the Senate Finance Committee staff and subsequently released in a Senate report which was promptly ignored by mass media with only surface coverage at best. One such discovery: the entrepreneurial televangelist operated her own personal business Paula White Enterprises from the church’s address.
The senate report also disclosed, “Several former WWIC staff members wanted to speak with Committee staff but were afraid of being sued by the church. Staff is aware of at least one former employee who received a letter from WWIC’s attorneys reminding them of the confidentiality agreement.”
The Senate Finance Committee’s eventual solution was grossly inadequate – i.e. no definitive findings of wrongdoing, and only a call for “an update in tax rules governing religious groups so abuses don’t occur” – an update that never happened.
White’s appointment raises so many questions. We would like to see journalists ask these:
- Will Paula White continue to record new episodes of her TV program Paula Today? If so, will the new episodes include political commentary or interviews of Trump? Because Paula Today is not a news program, Trump appearances could trigger the FCC’s equal-time rule.
- Because of White’s role in opening Trump’s political rallies with prayer and cheerleading, is she on his re-election committee payroll?
- Are there any paid staffers working on the Faith and Opportunity Initiative, and if so, are they required to sign a nondisclosure agreement as part of their employment?
In his book Kingdom’s in Conflict, the late Charles Colson describes how he recruited evangelical leaders for the Nixon administration. Leaders dined in the White House dining room and received “gold-plated cuff links with the presidential seal.”
Colson surmised that religious leaders were especially susceptible to political power and noted, “Ironically, none were more compliant than the religious leaders. Of all people, they should have been the most aware of the sinful nature of man and the least overwhelmed by pomp and protocol. But theological knowledge sometimes wilts in the face of worldly power.”
The charismatic and evangelical supporters of Trump should heed this warning.