Florida televangelist Paula White, who has served as a kind of spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump, will join his administration in an official capacity, according to a senior administration official and another person familiar with the move. White, who already helps to coordinate Trump’s evangelical outreach to key leaders, will be a religious adviser in the Office of Public Liaison, the part of the White House overseeing outreach to groups seen as part of Trump’s base.
The move appears to formalize a relationship that has been years in the making, going back nearly two decades when White and Trump first met.
White was one of six clergy who prayed at Trump’s inauguration, and other evangelical advisers say she speaks with Trump regularly. She is known as one of the most prominent televangelists who teach a prosperity gospel, that God will reward believers with wealth and health, a teaching that many Christian believe is heretical.
Trump’s 2016 campaign had an advisory council of mostly white evangelical leaders during his campaign, many of whom have continued to serve as unofficial advisers. Some, including Southern Baptist pastors, recently promoted White’s new book.
Johnnie Moore, an informal leader of Trump’s evangelical advisory board, of which White is often the convener, said that the Florida-based megachurch pastor and author recently played a significant role in helping to push criminal justice reform policies forward. “She has been a liaison to all kinds of Christians, Christians who were critical of her and impolite before they met her,” he said.
White did not immediately return a phone call or text message from The Washington Post on Friday. A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The change was first reported Friday by the New York Times.
It is unclear whether White will be paid in her new role.
Past presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, set up formal councils on faith-based and community partnerships, but Trump has not made that same faith-based council structure a key priority in his administration.
Instead, Trump’s evangelical advisory board is an informal gathering of religious leaders who supported the president during his campaign and continue to receive invitations to the White House regularly. After providing their support early on, the group has been rewarded with invitations to dinners and consultations.
The unofficial advisers have often been criticized even among evangelicals for their uncritical admiration of the Trump administration. Some have pointed to past examples for how evangelicals have been used for political gain. One famous evangelical, the late Chuck Colson of the Nixon administration, once led the Office of Public Liaison as director. But after he spent time in prison, he recalled how Nixon would use evangelicals for their own purposes.
“Sure, we used the prayer breakfasts and church services and all that for political ends,” Colson later said, according to historian Kevin Kruse. “One of my jobs in the White House was to romance religious leaders. We would bring them into the White House, and they would be dazzled by the aura of the Oval Office, and I found them to be about the most pliable of any of the special interest groups that we worked with.”
Trump has pleased many evangelical leaders with his nomination of Supreme Court justices, his anti-abortion policies and his inclusion of evangelicals in his own administration, such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
A group of leaders met with Trump earlier this week and prayed for him. Evangelical leaders who were there included James Dobson, Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins, and White was seated at Trump’s right hand.
Under President George W. Bush, the idea of a faith-based office was formed and raised questions over the relationship between church and state. In 2009, Obama established an Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which included 60 representatives from a variety of faiths, including evangelical, Catholic, Buddhist, Mormon, Jewish and Muslim. Last year, Trump announced his version of the White House faith-based office called the “White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.” Rather than inviting religious leaders to the White House through an established council, Trump’s liaison office has extended invitations to select le
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