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Ethics & Religion
June 23, 2016
Column #1,817
Evangelical Leaders Fail to Endorse Trump
By Mike McManus

More than 1,000 evangelicals met with Donald Trump this week but when eight prominent organizers spoke at a press conference afterward, they were asked who was ready to endorse the winner of the Republican presidential primaries. None raised their hand.

Not Franklin Graham, Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, nor Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, said she felt the meeting was "positive. But the question still is whether I can feel confident in asking people to join me."

Trump's comments were often odd. "The next president is going to be very freeing up your religion, freeing up your thoughts. You really don't have religious freedom."

I doubt that one attendee agreed with that. They oppose threats to religious freedom, such as the insistence by the Obama Administration that employers give employees free "morning after pills" to terminate a pregnancy. But all feel they have personal religious freedom to choose a church or teach their children about God.

Trump also asserted, "The evangelical vote was mostly gotten by me." Not really. Sen. Ted Cruz won in 12 states with a high percentage of evangelicals such as Texas, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma. Trump did win much of the evangelical south, but in Missouri he squeaked out by 40.9% percent to 40.7%, but he lost those who attend church weekly by 20%.

Committed evangelicals sense he is not one of them. Many supported Cruz, such as Iowa evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, who mocked Trump's botched citation of "Two Corinthians and his admission that he's never asked God for forgiveness."

Trump even told attendees that things were different "when I used to go to church." However, he reassures us that he does attend every Easter and Christmas!

Trump pleased his audience by saying, "The first thing we will do is support Supreme Court Justices who are talented men and woman and pro-life." He has released a list of 11 noted conservative judges, from whom he promised to choose the next Supreme Court nominee if elected.

He surprised many by pledging to repeal the Johnson Amendment which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. "I think it will be my greatest contribution to Christianity and all religions to allow you to speak openly. You have a right to do that. People walking down the street have more power than you, because they can say whatever they want."

However, a number of nationally prominent evangelicals were not even in attendance because they oppose his candidacy. For example, Dr. Russell Moore, President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote a column in The New York Times in September who called his support by evangelicals and social conservatives "illogical."

"To back Mr. Trump, these voters must repudiate everything they believe. His attitude toward women is that of a Bronze Age warlord. He tells us in one of his books that he revels in the fact he gets to sleep with some of the `top women of the world.' He has divorced two wives (so far) for other women."

His lack of "a moral compass" is not surprising since he built his career "off of gambling, a moral vice and an economic swindle that oppresses the poorest and most desperate," Moore wrote. He praises the "good things" done by Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortionist. At a time of high racial tensions, Trump "incites division, with slurs against Hispanic immigrants and with protectionist jargon."

Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center wondered why none of the evangelicals asked Trump to release his tax returns, which all Presidential candidates have done for generations. "It is very sad and pathetic to see evangelicals seduced by power. Is this the new face of the Republican Party - a misogynist, racist, owner of casinos, who won't even release his tax returns?"

Moore warns, "We should also count the cost of following Donald Trump. To do so would mean that we've decided to join the other side of the culture war, that image and celebrity and money and power and social Darwinist `winning' trump the conservation of moral principles and a just society."

If not one evangelical "leader" can endorse Trump, they ought to take the lead in pressing Republicans to nominate a man they can support enthusiastically.

Trump is not yet the Republican nominee.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To see past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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