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Was It Wrong for Trump to Sign Bibles? Here's What He Once Told CBN News About the Bible

03-11-2019
President Donald Trump signs a Bible as he greets people at Providence Baptist Church in Smiths Station, Ala., Friday, March 8, 2019, during a tour of areas where tornados killed 23 people in Lee County, Ala. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Donald Trump signs a Bible as he greets people at Providence Baptist Church in Smiths Station, Ala., Friday, March 8, 2019, during a tour of areas where tornados killed 23 people in Lee County, Ala. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Critics attacked President Trump over the weekend for signing Bibles when he visited tornado survivors in Alabama, but the media frenzy about it is being called a fake controversy. 

As CBN News reported, the president visited The Yellowhammer State last Friday to survey the devastation and pay respects to tornado victims. The massive 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, Trump posed for a photograph with a fifth-grade volunteer and signed the child's Bible. The president also signed her sister's Bible. In photos and videos from the visit, Trump is shown signing the cover of other paperback Bibles as well.

On Saturday, The Associated Press wrote about the incident, writing, "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."

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.

Bill Leonard, the founding dean, and professor of divinity emeritus at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina told the AP it's important to remember that signing Bibles is an old tradition, particularly in southern churches.

Leonard said he would have viewed it as more problematic if the signings were done at a political rally. He doesn't see how Trump could have refused at the church.

"It would've been worse if he had said no because it would've seemed unkind, and this was at least one way he could show his concern along with his visit," he said. "In this setting, where tragedy has occurred and where he comes for this brief visit, we need to have some grace about that for these folks."

James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, also noted the attention the kind gesture received. "Too much is being made out of something that doesn't deserve that kind of attention," he said.

Dr. Ed Stetzer, the dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership at Wheaton College serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Center, and he took to Twitter to address the issue. 

"The Bible autograph news is a made up controversy," he wrote. "In some places, particularly the south, people ask you to sign their Bible. I've signed several. Most have other signatures already on the same page. Media friends, just b/c @POTUS does a thing does not make it disrespectful."

Stetzer also explained how he has been asked to sign Bibles after speaking engagements, writing "I am not a big fan of the idea, to be honest. So, I almost always reply, "Well, I did not write that book, so you probably don't want me to sign it." If they persist after my deflection, I write a short note on the cover page, write my favorite Bible verse, and move on."

The website Slate.com also posted an article about Trump signing Bibles, but it pointed out that other celebrities in the evangelical world are asked to sign Bibles, including Tim Tebow. 

CBN Chief Political Analyst David Brody knows about the president's Christian faith.  He co-authored the book The Faith of Donald J. Trump which was released in 2018.

While covering stories for CBN News in 2011 about private citizen and later presidential candidate Trump, Brody reports he showed great respect for the Bible. Brody shared on Twitter about what Trump told him about his faith.  

FLASHBACK: @realDonaldTrump tells me the following in 2011: "I believe in God. I am Christian. I think the Bible is certainly, it is THE book." Then he explains how people send him Bibles and keeps them in a, "very nice place."

FLASHBACK: my interview with @realDonaldTrump in 2011: "I get sent Bibles by a lot of people...actually, we keep them at a certain place. A very nice place...there's no way I would ever throw anything, to do anything negative to a Bible..." 

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Sunday also fired back at critics who said they were "outraged" at the president signing Bibles.  He took to Twitter writing, "most" of these people "don't read one or believe in it so why do they care" other than it's President Trump who did it. "I've been asked to sign thousands of Bibles over the yrs-because person asked. I never claimed to be the author! Get a grip!"

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