Several of President Donald Trump's Cabinet members reportedly attend a weekly Bible study spearheaded by a conservative pastor who believes lawmakers should make decisions based on Christianity. The Trump administration's religious gatherings would likely please the president's evangelical voters while potentially disturbing Americans who are wary of religion influencing federal policy.
On July 31, Ralph Drollinger of Capitol Ministries disclosed that he led a weekly White House Bible study attended by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
"These are godly individuals that God has risen to a position of prominence in our culture," Drollinger told CBN News.
"It's the best Bible study that I've ever taught in my life," Drollinger continued. "They are so teachable; they're so noble; they're so learned."
The pastor added that Vice President Mike Pence would begin to attend the Bible study.
"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," Drollinger said. "And then fourthly, he brings real value to the head of the nation."
Trump does not attend the Bible study but has been invited to do so. The president reportedly receives scripture from Drollinger once a week.
Drollinger, a former NBA basketball player, also holds Bible studies with religious members of the House and Senate. The controversial pastor has previously made polarizing statements.
In June 2004, Drollinger's Bible study was removed from the office of former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California amid public outrage over several of the pastor's remarks, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Drollinger had angered several members of the Schwarzenegger administration when he called Catholicism "the world's largest false religion."
The pastor had also preached that women who left their children at home to pursue work were committing a sin. He had also denounced homosexuality as an abomination, according to the Sacramento News & Review.
The evangelical pastor has also promoted dominionism, asserting that his Bible studies aim to create as many lawmakers with evangelical views as possible. In September 2015, the pastor stated during a radio interview that his ideal legislator was former GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
"She thinks biblically," Drollinger told KKLA-FM. "She doesn't need a whole lot of time to figure out how to vote because she sees the world through a scriptural lens. We need more men and women like her in office."
When Capitol Ministries spokesperson Deborah Mendenhall was asked if Drollinger was a dominionist, she told Splinter that the pastor "believes in institutional separation, but not influential separation. There is a vast difference."
Former White House staffer Michael Wear, who had managed faith-based initiatives for the Obama administration, noted that previous administrations also had Bible studies for Cabinet members.
"If these are meetings for the personal benefit of these staff and Cabinet officials, they have every right to get together to study their scriptures and learn more about their faith," Wear told HuffPost.
Meanwhile, legislative director Maggie Garrett of the American United for Separation of Church and State voiced concern that the Bible study was led by Drollinger, citing his previous statements and teachings.
"These are the messages Trump administration officials are embracing each week ... The president and his cabinet serve all of us," Garrett said. "Knowing they attend Bible studies like this sows doubt in our minds about whether they do. Our government's policies should be inclusive and promote fairness and equality, not be implemented based on a narrow religious agenda."
Sources: CBN News, HuffPost, KKLA FM via YouTube, Sacramento News & Review, San Diego Union-Tribune, Splinter / Featured Image: Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, Danielle Drollinger/Wikimedia Commons