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In public, Donald Trump has spoken in glowing terms about his evangelical supporters, calling them “warriors on the frontiers defending American freedom,” people who are “incredible” and “faithful,” a bulwark against assorted moral evils.

But behind the scenes, as The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins recently reported, “many of Trump’s comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. Former aides told me they’ve heard Trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups with cartoonish stereotypes, and deride certain rites and doctrines held sacred by many of the Americans who constitute his base.”

Trump “mocks evangelicals behind closed doors,” Republican Senator Ben Sasse recently told his constituents.

“Can you believe people believe that bullshit?” Donald Trump said after a 2012 meeting with pastors who laid hands on him, according to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and confidant.

“Those fucking evangelicals,” the president, smiling and shaking his head, told GOP lawmakers, according to Tim Alberta’s book, American Carnage. Trump believed, Alberta writes, that if he gave them “the policies and the access to authority that they longed for,” then “in return they would stand behind him unwaveringly.”

And so they have.

In judging how each side sees the relationship, let’s start with the president. A man whose lifestyle is more closely aligned with hedonism than with Christianity, Trump clearly sees white evangelicals as a means to an end, people to be used, suckers to be played. He
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