Religion is a choice

Catholics in the US election campaign: Who Still Prays for Donald Trump?


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For the nation, for Donald Trump, for the election victory. Sister Deirdre Byrne begins to pray. She wears the nun's veil, a Velan headgear. She crosses herself: "Holy Mary, full of grace." The pearls of the prayer beads slide through her fingers. 1,500 people watch the nun. The prayer is live on YouTube. Comments from the audience pop up in the window next to the video: "Amen", "God bless the President" or "Real Catholics vote for Trump".

The group Catholics for Trump has called on its website to recite a rosary for the president with Sister Byrne. The group is part of Trump's official campaign team. A few days before the election, she and Sister Byrne are due to help reach thousands of undecided Catholics in the country. They could be Trump's last chance to win in major swing voter states after all.

Religion determines the election campaign in the USA like in no other western country. A third of Americans said in a poll that their beliefs influence them in their voting decisions. But the extent to which it does this, parties and candidates can have a strong influence on.

Largest religious group

When Donald Trump won the election in 2016, many newspapers wrote about evangelical Christians, 81 percent of whom voted for Trump. In this election, however, many campaign strategists look to Catholic voters. In the swing states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, they make up at least a quarter of registered voters, making them the largest religious group.

But the Catholics are not a closed bloc like the Evangelicals. They are as polarized as the rest of the country. In 2016, a narrow majority voted for Trump. Now Biden is just ahead of the polls with 51 percent. But their demographics are changing a lot, mainly because more and more Catholic immigrants from Central and South America can vote.

Republicans say real Catholics must vote for Trump because he is against abortion. His challenger Joe Biden is a Catholic himself and could become the second Catholic President after Kennedy. The Democrats present him as a moral alternative and invoke Pope Francis.

The election campaign shows how much belief can be bent until it corresponds to political attitudes. But it also shows how unforgiving many Americans are before the election. Even those who sit in the same church every Sunday.

After 15 minutes, Sister Byrne ends the prayer and kisses her rosary beads. The campaign manager of Catholics for Trump joins the live stream and asks the nun: "What are arguments that can be used to prove that Trump voters are on the right side?" Sister Byrne names three irrefutable values: marriage between men and women, religious freedom, and the prohibition of abortion. The election decision of Catholics must be based on this. Before Sister Byrne became a sister, she served as a surgeon in the U.S. Army. Speaking at the Republican Convention in August, she called Trump the "best anti-abortion president" ever.