Despite serving a quarter century as the Southern Baptist Convention’s point man on public policy, Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land says he never had the White House’s ear the way he does now as a member of President Donald Trump’s faith advisory team.
“They have listened,” Land told guest host Ronnie Floyd on the July 31 edition of Washington Watch with Tony Perkins. “Not only do we have access, but we have had impact on decisions. We have had impact on policy. It’s a whole different atmosphere. There really is a different atmosphere in the White House, in the administration.”
“I think the president is absolutely fascinated by evangelicals,” said Land, who retired four years ago after 25 years as president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I don’t think he ever was around evangelicals much until he ran for president. I think he’s interested in what we have to say. He’s fascinated by us, and he finds us to be in synch with him on a lot of things.”
“People need to realize, this guy is from Queens,” Land said. “He’s not from Manhattan. When he was working for his dad, he formed an emotional bond with those blue-collar construction workers that he was supervising, and he really cares about ordinary folk and the plight that we’re in and the fact that our government has not been serving us.”
Both Land and Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, attended the July 10 White House gathering of evangelical leaders that culminated in a photo widely circulated on social and mainstream media showing the group surrounding the president and laying hands on him in prayer inside the Oval Office.
“You were there when we had the work day,” Land, long recognized as a leader in the Religious Right, said to Floyd. “Tony Perkins and Gary Bauer — who actually worked in the Reagan White House — and Ralph Reed and myself all testified to the fact that we’ve never had the kind of open access to the administration that we’ve had in this administration.”
“It is sort of nice when you walk around the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and you keep running into people you know who are evangelical,” Land said. “Personnel is policy, and there are more evangelicals in this administration as personnel than any administration in my lifetime, probably since Calvin Coolidge. It’s a lot easier to explain evangelical concerns to evangelicals.”
Author and public relations consultant Johnnie Moore, who took the picture widely criticized as signaling evangelical endorsement for some of Trump’s more controversial policies, said after the July 10 meeting that one of the issues that came up during the day was whether transgender people are qualified to serve in the military.
Moore, who is scheduled to speak this Sunday at Floyd’s church in Arkansas, was quoted July 27 by Religion News Service saying the group followed up with a signed letter asking Trump to reverse the Obama-era policy of eliminating barriers to military service based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Floyd and Land did not discuss any possible connection between the letter and President Trump’s surprise tweet July 26 announcing that the United States would no longer accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the military, but Land offered his own views on the topic.
“First of all, I believe that transgenderism is, like homosexuality and lesbianism, the ultimate rebellion against God,” Land said. “God created us as male and female, and people who are homosexual, lesbian or transgender are saying I don’t want to be in the image that God made me.”
“Gender is a social construct,” Land said. “Sex is a biological fact, and it’s determined at the moment of conception, whether you’re going to be a male or a female. So theologically I reject the idea that this is in any way normal or is to be affirmed.”
“Secondly, the military is not a social experiment,” Land continued. “The military is designed to fight and win wars. Anything that could detract from that should be rejected. What the president did was he said we are not going to implement President Obama’s agenda, which was to actively go out and recruit transgender people, bring them into the military, where they would then be able to get their sex-change operations at the expense of the federal government.”
Land said each person brought in and trained under that policy who gets gender-reassignment surgery will miss a minimum of 90 days of active service.
“We don’t need to be in a very dangerous world bringing people in who are going to be out of commission that long,” he said.
“Secondly, it’s going to cost about $200,000 per person,” Land continued. “For what it would cost us, we could buy an extra aircraft carrier. We could buy an extra thousand tanks, and there’s no way in which it increases the readiness and the military ability of the United States.”
“Now, unfortunately, because Mr. Obama changed the policy, people who were in the military who wanted to get sex-change operations, who were already in, have been getting these operations and are remaining on active duty,” Land said.
“Frankly, my own personal position, and I’m not speaking for anybody else here, my own personal position would be I don’t think we can just summarily expunge these people from the military,” he said. “Many of them have served honorably, and they took the government at its word that they could come out and declare themselves transgender and begin the process of transformation.
“I would not pay for any continued surgeries, but I would not cashier them. I would grandfather them, and I think there are about five or six thousand right now, but the president stopped the policy that was going to go out and go all across the land saying to transgenders, ‘Hey! Come on and join the military, and if you join the military, then we’ll give you, we’ll pay for your sex-change operation.’ That is an outrageous use of the taxpayers’ money and in no way increases the military readiness of the United States.”
Land also offered his advice on how the president should deal with the military threat posed by North Korea.
“We just simply cannot allow [North Korea’s supreme commander] Kim Jong-un to get a nuclear bomb, or a missile, that he can deliver to the continental United States or to Hawaii and Alaska,” he said.
“The man is crazy, and deterrence doesn’t work against people like that,” Land said. “We just simply cannot allow it, and [Trump] is going to have do to whatever it takes to do that.”
“I think the first step would be to talk to China and say you’ve got to take this guy out. You’ve got to get rid of him through sanctions, or else we’re going to have to do it, and we mean business,” he said.
“What I would tell the Chinese is either you do it, or we’re going to give the South Koreans and Japanese nuclear weapons. I guarantee the Chinese do not want a nuclear Japan. If that doesn’t do it, then we’re going to have to take this guy out. We cannot let him hold Los Angeles and Chicago and San Francisco hostage, which he might be able to do within a year. It’s just simply not acceptable.”