FEC Chair Says There's No Separation of Church and State, Calls 2020 Election a 'Spiritual War'

Federal Election Commission (FEC) Chair James E. "Trey" Trainor III insisted that the separation of church and state is a "fallacy" while describing November's election as a "spiritual war" in multiple recent interviews.

Trainor, a devout Catholic and an appointee of President Donald Trump, made the comments in two recent interviews with Religion News Service (RNS) and Church Militant, a right-wing Catholic news outlet.

"What we see going on around the country is complete anarchy in places where the rule of law has been completely abrogated," Trainor told RNS. "So it is a spiritual war in that it is striking at the underlying foundations of our constitutional republic. It's getting rid of the Christian moral principles that are the basis of the foundation of the country."

Republican Trainor was nominated by Trump last year and his position with the FEC was confirmed by the Senate in May. He had previously worked as lawyer for Trump's 2016 campaign. The agency that regulates election finance has been stalled since the July resignation of former Commissioner Caroline Hunter, also a Republican, which left it without the quorum required to legally vote on actions.

Bible with U.S. Flag
Federal Election Commission Chair James E. “Trey” Trainor III, an appointee of President Donald Trump, has claimed that the upcoming presidential election is a "battle between good and evil" and a "spiritual war." hayesphotography/Getty

In Trainor's recent interviews, he claimed that Trump had nullified the Johnson Amendment to the IRS tax code, which prohibits religious groups from "participating in or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office" or risk losing their tax exempt status. Although Trump did issue an order directing the Treasury Department to be lenient in enforcing the law, he lacks the Constitutional authority to revoke it by executive order.

Trainor blasted Catholic bishops for admonishing a priest who appeared in a viral video claiming that Democrats "cannot be Catholic" and would "face the fires of hell" if they do not repent, telling Church Militant "I don't think a bishop has the right to tell a priest that they can't come out and speak." He described the presidential election as "a battle between good and evil." Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is a practicing Catholic.

When speaking to RNS, Trainor claimed that comments from President John Adams meant that the Constitution was written for Christians only. His comments may have been based on a 1798 letter from Adams that said it was written for "a moral and religious people" but did not specify Christianity. President Thomas Jefferson also wrote a letter indicating that a "wall of separation" does exist between church and state. The Treaty of Tripoli, which has legal significance beyond both of the letters, also includes language that suggests there is separation.

"Regarding the separation of church and state, rather than misquoting John Adams' Oct. 11, 1798, letter to the Massachusetts Militia, a better measure of the founders' views can be taken from the Senate's ratifying and President Adams' signing, the year before, of the Treaty with Tripoli, which stated that 'the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,'" Trainor's Democratic colleague, FEC Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub, told RNS.

Newsweek reached out to the FEC for comment.