Presidential elections experts say Mike Pence’s religious beliefs are very much part of his political agenda
BOSTON — Last month’s election was a boon for religious Americans.
For Keith Matthew Mlyniec, lead pastor of The Harbor Church, a non-denominational church in West Kingston, Rhode Island, Vice President-elect Mike Pence is a strong Christian who will help President-elect Donald Trump “lead Christians in the United States more towards Godly ways.”
Throughout Pence’s political career, his efforts to combine his religious views with his politics – from anti-abortion and sex education legislation to fighting gay rights – have won him a great number of conservative Christian followers in Indiana and around the country, and that support followed him and Trump to the polls last month. According to Pew Research Center, 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump over Clinton in 2016 presidential exit polling.
Alan Schroeder, a journalism professor and presidential elections expert at Northeastern University, says that for many Christian voters, Mike Pence was one of factors that caused them to vote for Trump.
“Usually people don’t vote because of the vice president, but it is a factor,” Schroeder said. “For some people, it would be important to have a vice president like Pence who is very religious and very Christian.”
Schroeder describes Pence’s governing style as “using his religion as part of his politics.” That’s no more apparent than in his anti-abortion legislation. This March, Pence signed a law that bans abortion due to fetal abnormalities, gender, or race. It is the one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. “I signed this law with a prayer that God would continue to bless these precious children, mother and families,” Pence said after signing the legislation.
“I think, as governor of Indiana, Pence’s religious beliefs are very much part of his political priorities,” Schroeder said. “I don’t think it is appropriate for a politician’s religious preferences to become public policy.”
But Pence’s life-long, strong anti-abortion stance works for many white evangelical Christians like Mlyniec.
“I think the law saying not to kill innocent life is biblical. So it would be a good thing going to the future,” Mlyniec said. “I have three children and seven grandchildren. Do I want them to grow up in a country that has more Godly laws than less Godly laws? Yes, I want more.”
As for Trump and Pence’s future plans regarding abortion, Schroeder says it is possible that some of these religious beliefs will now become part of the political conversation.
“It is possible, I suppose, that if Trump really wants to fight the abortion issue, they may pursue that,” said Schroeder. “But of course it isn’t Trump and Pence who will pass laws. The congress has to make that decision to change the law.”
That congressional support may be more difficult to rally. Although Pence has captured a great number of pro-life voters, Schroeder thinks the majority of the voters in the United States believe that a woman should have the right to an abortion. Indeed, the majority of Americans think abortion should be legal, according to Pew Research Center. That freedom to an abortion may be eroded state by state should Pence follow through on legislation similar to Indiana’s.
“My guess is some states will probably choose a more restrictive policy [on abortion] and others like Massachusetts, for instance, will still have pretty liberal policy,” Schroeder said. “It completely depends where you live, and if you have access to choose abortion as an option.”