Did Trump go to church on Easter Sunday?

In years past, pictures have quickly been put out of former President Donald Trump attending church.

On Easter Sunday, all was quiet on the church front from team Trump even as he promoted his $60 Trump-branded Bibles in a video on Truth Social.

“All Americans need a Bible in their home and I have many. It’s my favourite book,” he claimed. “It’s a lot of people’s favourite book, I’m proud to endorse and encourage you to get this Bible, we must make America pray again.”

The group selling the Bibles has said it paid to license Mr Trump’s name and image, allowing Mr Trump to make money off the sales. The former president has a long history of selling his name and image for various branded products.

In a lengthy Easter Sunday message, Mr Trump went after those he sees as his political and legal enemies.

“Happy Easter to all, including crooked and corrupt prosecutors and judges that are doing everything possible to interfere with the presidential election of 2024, and put me in prison, including those many people that I completely and totally despise because they want to destroy America,” he wrote in an all-caps message.

Promoting his Bibles in the video message shared on Truth Social, Mr Trump claimed that “religion and Christianity are the biggest things missing from this country, and I truly believe that we need to bring them back”.

Over the years, Mr Trump has been identified as a Presbyterian, but in a statement to the Religion News Service in 2020, Mr Trump said: “Though I was confirmed at a Presbyterian church as a child, I now consider myself to be a non-denominational Christian.”

He claimed at the time that his parents “taught me the importance of faith and prayer from a young age”.

“Melania and I have gotten to visit some amazing churches and meet with great faith leaders from around the world. During the unprecedented Covid-19 outbreak, I tuned into several virtual church services and know that millions of Americans did the same,” he added.

According to a survey from last year, Republicans see Mr Trump as more religious than both President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic who attends mass regularly, and his former Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian who often cites scripture and who named his book So Help Me God.

Mr Trump is also seen as more of a “person of faith” than Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who faced scrutiny for his Mormon faith when he was the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

In 2022, People magazine reported that a member of Mr Trump’s inner circle said: “He’s no longer president, so he doesn’t have to go to church.”

He instead played golf and enjoyed the attention of adoring supporters, according to the magazine.

In 2020, Christianity Today noted: “Trump was not a regular churchgoer before he was elected president.” Four years earlier, a prominent evangelical backer referred to Mr Trump as a “baby Christian”.

Despite seemingly only going to church on at least a semi-regular basis while he was president, Mr Trump is once again using religion to push his message to the conservative right.

The Independent has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment.

He has recently started to depart from the bombastic showman routine towards the end of his rallies, to adopt a quieter tone for about a quarter of an hour. Supporters bow their heads, and some close their eyes as Mr Trump takes on the role of their pastor.

This last part of the rallies, “evokes an evangelical altar call, the emotional tradition that concludes some Christian services in which attendees come forward to commit to their saviour,” The New York Times noted on Monday.

“The great silent majority is rising like never before and under our leadership,” Mr Trump usually says at the end of the rallies as he reads from a teleprompter. “We will pray to God for our strength and for our liberty. We will pray for God and we will pray with God. We are one movement, one people, one family and one glorious nation under God.”

Former First Lady Melania Trump confirmed in 2017 that she’s a Catholic after meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Ms Trump is only the second Catholic first lady, the first was Jackie Kennedy. Mr Biden is only the second Catholic president – the first was President John F Kennedy.

Mr Trump claimed in February that the left wants to “tear down crosses”.

Speaking at the National Religious Broadcasters International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, Mr Trump said: “Remember, every communist regime throughout history has tried to stamp out the churches, just like every fascist regime has tried to co-opt them and control them.”

“And, in America, the radical left is trying to do both,” he claimed.

“They want to tear down crosses where they can, and cover them up with social justice flags,” Mr Trump added. “But no one will be touching the cross of Christ under the Trump administration, I swear to you.”

Mr Trump has come to endorse and embrace Christian Nationalism – the belief among rightwing evangelicals that the founders of the US wanted it to be a Christian nation. Some think the Constitution was inspired by God and that the government should declare the US as a Christian nation, push Christian values and to cease enforcing the separation of church and state.

“The left is trying to shame Christians,” Mr Trump said at the time. “They’re trying to shame us. I’m a very proud Christian.”

Mr Trump’s Muslim ban on travelling from a number of Muslim-majority countries drew widespread criticism early on in his administration. The then-president was also condemned for his posing in front of a church holding a bible near the White House shortly after the street had been cleared of racial justice protesters following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC (AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St. John's Church across from the White House after the area was cleared of people protesting the death of George Floyd June 1, 2020, in Washington, DC (AFP via Getty Images)

Many religious leaders are now firmly in Mr Trump’s corner, especially after he handed them three conservative justices on the Supreme Court which led to the striking down of Roe v Wade. But some religious leaders were initially hesitant to support Mr Trump, who has been divorced several times, made hush money payments to stifle news of his affairs that is now haunting him in court, and bragged about sexually assaulting women in a 2005 tape from the programme Access Hollywood.

“When he came onto the scene, people were sceptical,” Troy Miller, the president and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters, said in February. “But I think, as they’ve learned more and listened to Donald Trump speak, the one thing I hear all the time from people … is that they really feel like Donald Trump understands them and that’s the biggest connection that people make is, ‘This is a guy in politics who gets us, who understands us, who doesn’t talk like he’s an elitist and talk down to us.’”

To some, Mr Trump revealed his lack of religiosity in January 2016 when speaking at Liberty University, a Christian college.

"Two Corinthians 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame. ... Is that the one you like?" Mr Trump asked the crowd, according to NPR. “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

The verse, etched on buildings all across the campus, comes from “Second Corinthians”, not “Two”, as many noted at the time. 

Eight years later, Mr Trump is “calling himself God,” former MSNBC host Chris Matthews said on the network on Monday.

“Donald Trump is saying I am the shepherd. I’m him. I’m God. It’s astounding to me that he can talk like this. It’s blasphemy,” he said.

“I don’t know if the Democrats have really thought through this campaign and what they’re up against. This guy’s calling himself God. If he can get away with that, then it is truly a cult,” he added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report