Ralph Drollinger is an infamously far-right pastor who was disavowed by his own church for his bigoted ideology; he also leads an absolutely thriving weekly Bible study group for Trump administration Cabinet members.
The BBC checked in with Drollinger and his band of followers, who meet in a secret location every Wednesday. There are ten official “sponsors” of the group, but the attendance list rotates depending on schedules. The list include some big names—Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for instance.
Drollinger was happy to expound on the philosophy of Capitol Ministries, his organization that offers Bible study in 43 state Capitols. And to explain to the BBC that there is one major rule for each group: no women leaders allowed!
Each class is led by a local pastor, but none is led by a woman. Why not?
“There’s no [Biblical] prohibition of female leadership in commerce, there’s no prohibition of female leadership in the state, and there’s no prohibition of female leadership over children,” says Drollinger.
“But there is a prohibition of female leadership in marriage, and female leadership in the church. And those are clear in scripture… it doesn’t mean, in an egalitarian sense, that a woman is of lesser importance. It’s just that they have different roles.”
According to Capitol Ministries, this is the first Cabinet-level study group in 100 years—there was previously a group during the Bush administration, but for “lower level” staff members:
“Trump started appointing to his cabinet all the guys that were in our House and Senate bible study,” says Drollinger, a trend he attributes to Vice-President Mike Pence, who “knew who those strong believers were”.
“Unlike our secular media,” Drollinger says, he and others saw the appointees had something in common - they “were strong in Christ”.
“So Jeff Sessions, [former health secretary] Tom Price, others, said let’s start a ministry, a Cabinet bible study.”