Evangelical Leaders May Embrace Trump the Sinner

Election '16

We recently wrote about the dilemma facing conservative evangelical Christian leaders over Donald Trump candidacy. Will they actively support Trump, and encourage their supporters to vote for him? Will they stay home? Will they support a third party candidate? Rob Boston, director of communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at the Massachusetts-based Political Research Associates, two longtime observers of, and writers about the religious right maintained that when push comes to shove, most of the movement's leaders would eventually come around. Well, on June 21, dozens of religious right leaders will be coming around to New York City for a meet-up with "the Donald."

The event, "A Conversation About America's Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson," is being sponsored by United in Purpose, My Faith Votes, Global Fund Group, FCCI, Vision America, AFA Action and the Family Research Council, and may be one of the largest gatherings of anti-gay, and anti-abortion religious leaders in quite some time.

According to Time magazine's Elizabeth Dias, "Former presidential candidate Ben Carson is working with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, and Bill Dallas, who leads United in Purpose, to plan a closed-door session for about 400 social conservative leaders to meet with Trump in the coming weeks in New York City. A broader steering group of about 20 people includes people like American Values president Gary Bauer, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and Family Leader president Bob Vander Plaats.

"'We are looking for a way forward,' Perkins says. 'The main thing here is this is to have a conversation." He described the planned meeting as "a starting point for many." The Trump campaign has not publicly confirmed that the meeting will take place.

According to Dias, "The event is expected to be a closed-door interactive forum for attendees to ask questions of the candidate, likely in an interview format, not prepared speeches. This event is also not intended to focus on rolling out endorsements. 'I don't even know what it will lead to,' Perkins says. 'It is just to have an honest conversation so that these leaders know what they need to do.'"

The event might also be aimed at raising money for Trump from evangelicals. BloombergPolitics recently reported "Trump is … beginning to make inroads with more traditional evangelical donors who backed religious conservative candidates who have now dropped out of the presidential race."

Foster Friess, the billionaire who supports Christian conservative causes and was a major supporter of Rick Santorum's failed bid for the GOP's presidential nomination, told Bloomberg Politics: "My success came from harnessing people's strengths and ignoring their weaknesses, and secondly, from assessing people not according to their pasts or where they are today, but rather based on what they can become. I predict that traditional Republicans—along with the welders, plumbers, farmers, truck drivers and hospitality workers Donald Trump is bringing into the fold—will embrace a Trump-inspired, reignited America."

Meanwhile, Team Trump is organizing its own faith-based advisory committee, with, Dias reported, former Arkansas Governor and failed presidential candidate Mike Huckabee "discussed as a possible national chairman."

Dias also pointed out that "Televangelist Paula White, a Trump supporter and a senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, have been organizing the group behind-the-scenes with Tim Clinton, president of the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors, according to several people familiar with the project."

And, not to let his Cinco de Mayo eating a taco bowl tweet define his outreach efforts to Latinos, last weekend via video message, Trump addressed The Latin Leaders Fest, the annual national conference of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, an organization of more than 40,000 Latino evangelical churches.

While Trump did not apologize for his previous vilifying and denigrating remarks about immigrants as he was urged to do by NHCLC president Samuel Rodriguez, Jr., Time magazine's Dias reported that Trump promised jobs and lower taxes for poor people.

The lynchpin to Trump's success with conservative Christian evangelicals appears to be Dr. Ben Carson, an early Trump endorser, who will try to convince the group that Trump is pro-life. "Donald Trump is pro-life," Carson has said. "Now he might not be quite as pro-life as I am, but he definitely believes in the sanctity of life, does not believe in abortion on demand. That is a misconception that people have."

Carson is spearheading MyFaithVotes, an effort to mobilize 25 million Christian voters this election cycle. Carson's effort is only one among several get out the vote projects launched by the Christian Right.

Ralph Reed, who remained neutral during the primaries but is now supporting Trump, is, as head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, "planning for 2016 to be the largest voter education program of his career," Time's Dias reported. "His team will make 200 million voter contacts, directed at 32.1 million faith-based voters primarily in battleground states like Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio. His voter education program budget is projected for $28 million, and will include one million door knocks, 25 million pieces of mail, and on average 7 digital messaging impressions per voter."

The ultra-conservative David Lane, who heads up the American Renewal Project, is planning a huge prayer rally for Cleveland just prior to the GOP convention. "I'm going to choose to believe that Donald Trump can be one of the top 4 presidents in American history," he recently wrote to his followers. "We intend Evangelical and Pro-Life Catholic Christians to bring biblical-based values to the public square, bucking up a Trump Administration willing to confront totalitarian 'Political Correctness.'"

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