Donald Trump courts Christian right with a copy of the Bible in hand

September 27, 2015 6:58 am

 

“I
love them. They love me,” Trump, a Presbyterian, said of evangelicals
last month in Greenville, South Carolina. Photo / Getty Images

recently showed up at a gathering of Iowa conservative Christian voters with a copy of the Bible in hand.
As
the Republican presidential front-runner and billionaire businessman
tries to maintain his lead in early polls with rivals quickly gaining
ground, Trump is increasingly courting a wing of the Republican Party
that might seem antithetical to his brand: evangelical Christians.
“I
love them. They love me,” Trump, a Presbyterian, said of evangelicals
last month in Greenville, South Carolina. “I love the Evangelicals, and
it’s really shown in the polls.”
After initially declining the
invitation, Trump will be speaking Friday in front of an expected 2,000
social conservative leaders at the Family Research Council’s Values
Voter Summit in Washington. He joins a speaking program that includes
Republican rivals with long records of dedication to religious causes ”
among them, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor, and
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

In many ways, Trump’s brand as the bombastic, thrice-married
billionaire showman would seem an ill-fit among religious conservatives.
He once held a reputation as a womanizing playboy, previously supported
abortion rights, and appears to spend more time calling into Sunday
morning talk shows than attending church.
Trump likes to boast
about the Bible being his favorite book, but has refused to quote his
favorite biblical verse when asked to say what it was. He raised
eyebrows in June when he said at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames,
Iowa, that he has never asked God for forgiveness and described
Communion as “when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I
drink, and have my little cracker.”
Some evangelical leaders are skeptical.
Russell
Moore, the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Trump’s candidacy is
fundamentally opposed to Christian values.
“When one looks at the
very serious moral character questions, from Trump’s involvement in the
casino gambling industry all the way through to his attitude toward
women, Donald Trump is the embodiment of everything that evangelical
Christians have been standing against in American culture,” he said.
Social
conservatives are eager to have “a conversation” with Trump about his
previous support for abortion rights, among other positions most
conservatives strongly oppose, said Tony Perkins, president of the
Family Research Council, which is hosting the Value Voters Summit.
On
Monday he’s set to host a group of evangelical pastors and bishops from
across the country for a private meeting and prayer session at Trump
Tower in New York.
Several attendees, including Pastor Lionel
Traylor of Jackson, Mississippi, said evangelical voters are
particularly drawn to Trump’s direct style and his strong defense of
Christians at a time “when Christianity is under attack.” Trump has
frequently made reference to attacks on Christians abroad and said that
he will be a champion for religious liberty, including defending
Christmas.
Trump’s relationship with evangelical leaders goes back far longer than he’s been running for president.
According
to previously reported tax documents, the Donald J. Trump Foundation
has given to numerous Christian causes in recent years, including
$100,000 to the Billy Graham Evangelist Association in 2012, as well as
ministries as far away as Debra George Ministries in Texas and the Ramp
Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Monday’s gathering is expected to
open with a prayer service and include discussion of issues affecting
the preachers’ communities, said Trump Organization attorney Michael
Cohen, who struck up a friendship with Scott.
– AP

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