CONTROVERSIAL? Was It Ok For President Trump To Sign Bibles?

There's more to the story than you might expect


President Trump finds himself in yet another media controversy, this time over signing Bibles while he was touring the local disaster.

There’s more to this story than you might expect.

And Mike Huckabee (that’s PASTOR Huckabee, in case you forgot) has Trump’s back.

But first, in case you missed it, here’s the video that created all the uproar:

Fox News explained more about the history of signing Bibles:

President Donald Trump was just doing what he could to raise spirits when he signed Bibles at an Alabama church for survivors of a deadly tornado outbreak, many religious leaders say, though some are offended and others say he could have handled it differently.

Hershael York, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology in Louisville, Ky., said he didn't have a problem with Trump signing Bibles, like former presidents have, because he was asked and because it was important to the people who were asking.

"Though we don't have a national faith, there is faith in our nation, and so it's not at all surprising that people would have politicians sign their Bibles," he said. "Those Bibles are meaningful to them and apparently these politicians are, too."

But the Rev. Donnie Anderson, executive minister of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, said she was offended by the way Trump scrawled his signature Friday as he autographed Bibles and other things, including hats, and posed for photos. She viewed it, she said, as a "calculated political move" by the Republican president to court his evangelical voting base.

Presidents have a long history of signing Bibles, though earlier presidents typically signed them as gifts to send with a spiritual message. President Ronald Reagan signed a Bible that was sent secretly to Iranian officials in 1986. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the family Bible his attorney general used to take the oath of office in 1939.

It would have been different, Anderson said, if Trump had signed a Bible out of the limelight for someone with whom he had a close connection.

"For me, the Bible is a very important part of my faith, and I don't think it should be used as a political ploy," she said. "I saw it being used just as something out there to symbolize his support for the evangelical community, and it shouldn't be used in that way. People should have more respect for Scripture."

York said that he, personally, would not ask a politician to sign a Bible, but that he has been asked to sign Bibles after he preaches. It feels awkward, he said, but he doesn't refuse.

"If it's meaningful to them to have signatures in their Bible, I'm willing to do that," he said.

Trump visited Alabama on Friday to survey the devastation and pay respects to tornado victims. The tornado carved a path of destruction nearly a mile wide, killing 23 people, including four children and a couple in their 80s, with 10 victims belonging to a single extended family.

At the Providence Baptist Church in Smiths Station, Ala., the Rev. Rusty Sowell said, the president's visit was uplifting and will help bring attention to a community that will need a long time to recover.

Before leaving the church, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child's Bible, said Ada Ingram, a local volunteer. The president also signed her sister's Bible, Ingram said. In photos from the visit, Trump is shown signing the cover of a Bible.

Trump should have at least signed inside in a less ostentatious way, said the Rev. Dr. Kevin Cassiday-Maloney.

"It just felt like hubris," said Cassiday-Maloney, pastor at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Fargo, North Dakota. "It almost felt like a desecration of the holy book to put his signature on the front writ large, literally."

He doesn't think politicians should sign Bibles, he said, because it could be seen as a blurring of church and state and an endorsement of Christianity over other religions.

It would have been out of line if Trump had brought Bibles and given them out, but that wasn't the case, said James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.

"Too much is being made out of something that doesn't deserve that kind of attention," he said.

Bill Leonard, the founding dean and professor of divinity emeritus at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C., woke up to Facebook posts Saturday morning by former students who were upset about Trump signing the Bibles because they don't view him as an appropriate example of spiritual guidance.

But, Leonard said, it's important to remember that signing Bibles is an old tradition, particularly in southern churches.

Gov. Huckabee supported the President:

As did others:

Even Slate gave an explanation in defense of President Trump:

President Donald Trump traveled to Alabama on Friday to comfort those who had been devastated by the tornado outbreak last weekend that killed 23 people. During the trip, the president raised eyebrows for what appeared to be an unusual gesture, as he signed some Bibles. He didn’t do this out of the blue though. It seems a 12-year-old boy got the ball rolling when he handed Trump his Bible and asked him to sign it at a Southern Baptist church in Opelika. A 10-year-old also asked him to sign her Bible. He doesn’t appear to have been the only one. Video posted online seems to show first lady Melania Trump also signing Bibles.

The critics immediately pounced, with some pointing out that the only person who usually signs a book is the author. Others called it offensive for someone to sign their own name on a Bible. “Growing up in a religious home, it would’ve been seen as blasphemous as having someone signing your own name,” Jamie Aten, an evangelical and psychologist at Wheaton College, told the Washington Post. “Maybe you penned your own name so people knew it was yours,” he added. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Atten may have been shocked by the move, but it isn’t as odd as you might think. The Post talked to Peter Manseau, the Smithsonian’s curator of religion, who said many past presidents have signed Bibles, including President Barack Obama. And it’s not like Trump was handing out stacks of signed bibles, but rather, he was doing what some people asked of him. “Presidents seem to sign a lot of random things put in front of them,” Manseau added.

More support for Trump:

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CONTROVERSIAL? Was It Ok For President Trump To Sign Bibles?

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