After vowing to go after journalists who write critical stories about him at a rally in Texas today, Donald Trump bragged about the support his presidential campaign has received from conservative evangelical voters, touting endorsements from televangelist Paula White, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., and Sarah Palin.
Trump even brought Robert Jeffress, the conservative televangelist notorious for his anti-gay, anti-Catholic and anti-Mormon preaching, onto the stage to sing his praises. Jeffress called Trump a patriot “who is truly pro-life,” unlike Hillary Clinton, whom he warned would be “the most pro-abortion president in history.”
“God bless Donald Trump,” Jeffress declared. Trump had a much bleaker message: “Christianity is under siege. Every year it gets weaker and weaker and weaker.”
He said he would restore Christianity to greatness by scrapping IRS regulations pertaining to church engagement in partisan political activity on behalf of candidates or campaigns.
It makes you less powerful than a man or woman walking up the street. You actually have less power, and yet if you look at it, I was talking to someone, we probably have 250 million, maybe even more, in terms of people, so we have more Christians than we have men or women in our country and we don’t have a lobby because they’re afraid to have a lobby because they don’t want to lose their tax status.
So I am going to work like hell to get rid of that prohibition and we’re going to have the strongest Christian lobby and it’s going to happen. This took place during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson and it has had a terrible chilling effect.
When I said that there has to be a temporary ban on certain people coming into this country, we have no choice, there’s something wrong, there’s something really wrong. And when I said ‘Muslim,’ I was met with furor. If I would’ve said ‘Christian,’ people would’ve said, ‘oh we can’t do anything about it.’ That’s going to end folks.
We’re going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ now on Christmas. We’re going to start going to department stores and stores and you’re going to see big beautiful signs that say, ‘Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.’ And we’re going to have a big, big, big lotta fun.
There is a lot to unpack here.
First, it is difficult to know what Trump means when he says that “we have more Christians than we have men or women in our country.”
Second, the part of the tax code Trump is speaking of was put into effect in 1954, not “during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson,” although as a senator he was behind the amendment instituting the policy.
Third, there are hundreds of interest groups who claim to represent Christians and even specific Christian denominations in America, proving that the IRS regulations did not have “a terrible chilling effect.”
Fourth, it is hard to square Trump’s claim that he is a defender of religious freedom when also boasting that he wants to ban all of the world’s Muslims — over 1.6 billion people — from entering the U.S.
Fifth, it seems unlikely that people would have shrugged if Trump said he wanted to ban Christians from the country.
Sixth, people still say “Merry Christmas” on Christmas.
Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson said that viewers can be healed by his television program even when they aren’t watching it live. During his show, Robertson typically dedicates a segment to calling out different healings or financial rewards that must be claimed by faithful viewers in order to work.
However, one viewer was worried that she wouldn’t be able to claim such healings because she doesn’t watch the show live.
Robertson assured her that viewers who watch recorded episodes of “The 700 Club” can also be healed, taking credit for healing a viewer’s knee ailment even though she watched a recording of the episode a week after it aired.
“And we’ve had things in Africa take place where the spirit of God rebuked demon spirits and drove them out” as a result of reruns of his show, Robertson said.
The anti-choice movement has, in recent years, been feuding over “personhood” laws, which ban all abortions by declaring zygotes and fetuses to be legal “persons” protected by the Constitution. Efforts to pass state-level “personhood” amendments have failed miserably, in part because opponents have pointed out that they could also threaten legal birth control and in-vitro fertilization, and a federal personhood bill sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul hasn’t gotten off the ground in Congress.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz, who has claimed the mantle of the Religious Right in his run for the presidency, seems to be attempting to sidestep the “personhood” debate by taking both sides at once.
Back in 2012, when Cruz was running for a U.S. senate seat in Texas, the anti-choice group National Pro-Life Alliance reported that Cruz had told its members that he would cosponsor Paul’s “personhood” bill, the Life at Conception Act.
Cruz never did cosponsor that legislation, but last year, as he was starting his campaign for the presidency, he signed a pledge written by the pro-personhood group Georgia Right to Life to “support a personhood amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” thus earning the group’s endorsement.
Then, later last year, Cruz was asked by social conservative leader Robert George about the basic theory behind Paul’s “personhood” bill — that if fetuses are declared to be “persons” under the law, Roe v. Wade will fall and abortion will be banned without the need for a constitutional amendment — Cruz said that he “absolutely” agreed.
Then, just this month, as he scrambled to woo social conservative voters ahead of the South Carolina Republican primary, Cruz recorded a video message extolling a resolution that state Republicans had passed in support of a state “personhood” amendment.
Now, a video is making the rounds among abortion-rights advocates that shows Cruz at a campaign stop in Iowa in January explicitly saying that he has “not supported personhood legislation” because “it focuses on issues that are unrelated to protecting unborn children” — an apparent reference to contraception and IVF.
“I believe we should protect every human life from the moment of conception to the moment of death,” Cruz says. “I have not supported personhood legislation because I think — and the pro-life community is divided on this — but I think personhood legislation can be counterproductive because it focuses on issues that are unrelated to protecting unborn children, and I think our focus should be valuing and cherishing every human life.”
When asked about his views on birth control, the senator adds: “I believe that birth control should be legal and unencumbered. And there are a lot of folks in politics that try to paint a false picture, they try to scare people to suggest that there are politicians trying to go after their birth control. It’s not true.”
Today, the pro-personhood group American Right to Life announced in a press release that it “disavows” Cruz because of his comments backtracking on its signature issue:
A mere 6 months after signing the Georgia Right To Life personhood pledge, Ted Cruz reversed himself last month stating, "I have not supported personhood legislation..." His flip-flop on this position that would make all abortions illegal from the moment of fertilization with no exceptions has resulted in Cruz being eliminated from consideration of being endorsed by American Right to Life.
"It's tragic that Ted Cruz has taken contradictory positions on abortion," said ARTL president Leslie Hanks, "and it's sobering to realize that his effort to get votes from the Republican base could explain his behavior. What America needs is a statesman who will never hesitate to use the bully pulpit to proclaim the God-given, inalienable right to life, at every stage of biological development. No exceptions."
Keep in mind that the video that offended American Right to Life was recorded well before Cruz praised a potential “personhood” amendment in South Carolina. Which leaves us to wonder: What exactly is his position on this?
At a rally today in Texas, Donald Trump said that if elected president, he would push to significantly change libel laws so he and others can sue journalists who write stories he finds “dishonest,” apparently not concerned with the Constitution’s First Amendment protections of free speech and the freedom of the press.
Trump told his supporters, who have become notorious for threatening journalists and demonstrators, that he intends to “open up the libel laws” in order to file lawsuits against reporters — particularly from the Washington Post and the New York Times — and “win money.”
“One of the things I’m going to do if I win, and I hope I do and we’re certainly leading, is I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposefully negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said. “We’re going to open up those libel laws.”
“With me, they’re not protected,” he said of media companies. “We’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
Watch via Right Side Broadcasting:
Yesterday on American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues,” Rafael Cruz chatted with Ed Vitagliano about the need to elect his son, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, president of the United States and prevent the appointment of a “liberal justice” to the Supreme Court.
“With the passing of Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court is in a precarious balance,” he said. “One more liberal justice and we lose the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, we lose the right to life and abortion on demand to the point of delivery will become the law of the land, we will lose all our religious freedom.”
Vitagliano agreed, warning that “one more liberal, vote-in-lock-step Supreme Court justice could doom many of the freedoms that we enjoy, First Amendment, Second Amendment, possession of firearms, the right to bear arms.”
Cruz lamented that “pastors have gone AWOL” from the political sphere even though the “Pilgrims came to America seeking the freedom to worship Almighty God and this country was founded on the Word of God and religious freedom,” adding that his son’s presidential bid is motivating conservative Christian pastors to get involved in politics. He told pastors to “open the eyes of people who are in darkness.”
“Vote for a candidate that stands on the purity and the integrity of the Word of God and on the integrity of the Constitution,” he said. “That is the foundation of America. If we do that, we can restore America to that shining city on the hill to the glory of God. I encourage you, if the Body of Christ coalesces around Ted Cruz, a true man that believes in the Constitution and the rule of law, we will see him as the next president of the United States.”
Today “The 700 Club” profiled a man named Robert who renounced homosexuality and married a woman, news welcomed by host Pat Robertson.
“Robert chose the homosexual lifestyle because he craved attention from men,” Robertson said.
“We have all these myths about homosexuality and he was just being used by people, they just wanted to take advantage and he didn’t know any better,” he said. “He thought that what they were showing him was love when actually it was one form of lust. When he came free, he wasn’t ‘homosexual,’ he was a person looking for love, he wanted the real thing and he got it, God gave him real love.”
Following last night’s debate, “big league” Christian Donald Trump floated a possible reason why he is facing an audit: because he’s a Christian.
Trump, who cited an ongoing audit as the reason why he won’t make his tax returns public, said he is being targeted by the IRS “maybe because of the fact that I’m a strong Christian.”
Trump’s claim of facing religious bias and mistreatment from the IRS may play well among conservatives who believe that the Obama administration is using the tax agency and other government institutions to persecute and intimidate conservative Christians.
This claim, along with allegations that conservative Christians are facing discrimination from the American government, is nothing but a myth that has been repeatedly debunked, but is nonetheless frequently spread by Republican politicians and even mainstream media personalities.
Conservative activists have repeatedly pushed the conspiracy theory: Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski of the Family Research Council alleged that Obama used the IRS to “eliminate his enemies”; Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action alleged that the IRS made it so that conservative groups “weren’t allowed to exist,” swinging the 2012 election to Obama; televangelist James Robison said “Satan himself” was behind “the gross abuse of power by the IRS”; and Glenn Beck said the non-scandal proved that America has surpassed Nazi Germany in its evil and could round up conservatives just as Adolf Hitler hounded Jews.
And now, it seems that the billionaire mogul is also under attack by this anti-Christian tax agency.
According to a report in Politico, Sen. Ted Cruz is standing in the way of a bipartisan relief package for the city of Flint, Michigan, where residents suffered lead poisoning as a result of a catastrophic budget-saving move from the governor’s office.
The Texas Republican placed a hold on the aid bill even after Senate Democrats agreed to concessions in spending, stopping the bill from coming to a vote by the full Senate.
Before blocking the measure, Cruz responded to the Flint water crisis by distributing bottled water to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers in the city.
This is far from Cruz’s first go-around in holding up emergency aid bills: He also opposed aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
However, the presidential candidate is more than happy to request federal dollars for relief projects in his home state.
A couple of days after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky declared that the Supreme Court still had an “obligation” to count the votes Scalia had cast in preliminary conferences on pending cases, even though those votes aren’t always final.
He was particularly interested in Friedrichs, an important labor case that some observers believe will, without Scalia’s vote, end up in a tie that will preserve a lower court decision favorable to unions.
It turns out that von Spakovsky mentioned this idea again in a National Review article last week, even presenting evidence of a “precedent” for counting the votes of deceased justices:
One final note on the terrible tragedy of Justice Scalia’s untimely death: what to do about the pending cases in which the Supreme Court justices already had cast their internal vote on how they would rule on the case. Everyone is assuming that Justice Scalia’s votes have to be discarded because the decisions have not yet been publicly released. But there is precedent for Chief Justice John Roberts to give effect to those votes.
In D. A. Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi (1946), the dissenting opinion by Justice Felix Frankfurter, and joined by Justice Harold Burton, specifically says that the “late Chief Justice [Harlan Stone] participated in the hearing and disposition of this case and had joined in this dissent.” Stone died on April 22, 1946; the date of the Gangi decision is April 29, 1946. Likewise, Justice Joseph Story noted the agreement of the late Chief Justice John Marshall in his dissent in New York v. Miln (1837), writing, “I have the consolation to know that I had the entire concurrence, upon the same grounds, of that great constitutional jurist, the late Mr. Chief Justice Marshall.”
Von Spakovsky’s “precedent” for counting the preliminary vote of a deceased justice is two cases in which the authors of dissents mentioned that a late colleague had been on their side of an issue. In the first, the dissenters mention the views of the late Chief Justice Harlan Stone, but do not appear to count him as an official joiner of the dissent. In the second, the dissenters cite the views of Chief Justice John Marshall, who had died more than a year before the opinion was issued and had already been replaced by Chief Justice Roger Taney — again, apparently citing his approval to make a point rather than as an official vote in the case.
In neither case was the vote of the deceased justice being counted. And in neither case would the vote of the deceased have changed the outcome of the case, as von Spakovsky seems to hope Scalia’s vote would in the Friedrichs case.
It’s almost as if conservatives are pulling Supreme Court “precedents” out of thin air.
Upon hearing the news that 13 bald eagles were found dead at a Maryland farm, pastor Ricky Scaparo took to Charisma News to discuss “the prophetic warning behind the death of 13 bald eagles.”
According to Scaparo, the number 13 signifies that God is speaking to America and is angry about abortion rights and “legalized abominations”:
When I saw this story breaking I saw so much symbolism in this for America. Let me explain. The national symbol for America is the eagle and the Thirteen Colonies, founded in the 16th and 17th centuries, declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States. The thirteen were: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Is there a prophetic picture here? If so what could it represent? We do know that the number 13 is symbolic of rebellion and lawlessness.
o Nimrod, the mighty hunter who was 'before the Lord' (meaning he tried to take the place of God – Genesis 10:9), was the 13th in Ham's line (Ham was one of Noah's three sons who survived the flood). Thirteen represents all the governments created by men, and inspired by Satan, in outright rebellion against the Eternal. America as a nation has continued to rebel against God through idolatry, legalized abominations and the list continues.
o The phrase 'valley of Hinnom' (or variation thereof) occurs in 13 places in Scripture. The valley was the scene of the evil-inspired rites of the pagan god Moloch (or Molech). Molech was an idol god worshiped Phoenicians which included child sacrifice, or "passing children through the fire." It is believed that idols of Moloch were giant metal statues of a man with a bull's head. Each idol had a hole carved out in the abdomen and possibly outstretched forearms that made a kind of ramp to the hole. A fire was lit in or around the statue. Babies were placed in the statue's arms or in the hole. Today we don't see this in America but children are aborted daily by a practice of removing the child from the belly of its mother.
This reminds us of when self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs linked the freak deaths of birds in Arkansas to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign has tried to present the Texas Republican as the candidate of all true Christians, one who has, according to his father, a divine anointing to be president of the United States.
The extreme arrogance of this message echoes what many people who knew Cruz in college or worked with him on George W. Bush’s 2000 campaign or in Congress have told reporters, painting him as an egotistical and self-righteous bully.
Naturally, American Family Radio host Sandy Rios, whose endorsement of Cruz was touted by the senator’s campaign, yesterday offered a different explanation as to why so many people who know Cruz dislike him: because of his godliness.
While speaking with pastor Erwin Lutzer at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, Rios expressed dismay that many evangelicals are backing Donald Trump over Cruz, “who actually has been absolutely faithful and open about his faith and putting his money where his mouth is.”
“He has really done great things in Washington and he’s hated because of it,” she said. “The Senate, the party hates him. People don’t like, they don’t necessarily like righteous, really righteous people. I don’t know Ted personally that well, but generally speaking, is that true, you think? People sort of resent when somebody is kind of a reminder to them, kind of the bellwether of the way things should be and they don’t match up to that bellwether, there’s a resentment.”
Jones told his audience that Trump takes his cues from InfoWars, claiming that Trump molded his position on issues such as the resettlement of Syrian refugees, the Federal Reserve and the Bush administration’s handling of the September 11 terrorist attacks based on feedback from him and others.
Trump, Jones said, is “riding a wave” of anti-government anger “and no amount of armored vehicles, no amount of propaganda, no amount of fluoride in the water, no amount of the brainwashing of the children in public schools is going to reverse this sentiment that’s only going to intensify.”
“Trump is the manifestation of the human will to suck air into its lungs and to be strong and healthy, to be strong and free,” he said.
On Tuesday, right-wing radio host Michael Savage reacted to President Obama’s proposal to close Guantanamo Bay “in the waning months of his mad, mad reign of terror.” Savage, claiming that Obama’s attempt to close the military detention facility is motivated by a secret, terrorist-sympathizing agenda, offered his own proposal for Gitmo: firing squads.
“People who, if found guilty and, by the way, if they’re not guilty, what are they doing in Guantanamo to begin with?” he said. “They’re put there because they’re guilty. If they’re so guilty of consorting with terrorists or plotting terrorism, why have they not been executed to begin with? Why don’t you just line them up in front of a firing squad and give [Guantanamo] back to Castro?”
Savage commended U.S. service members convicted of murder and other crimes while serving in Iraq, worrying that they will soon share prisons with former Gitmo detainees: “He wants to bring the world’s worst terrorists to America, to house them in prisons that we have here, whether it be Florence or Fort Leavenworth, now housing Marines that did their jobs too well. Leavenworth now has some of our Marines who killed too many Iraqis while fighting for their lives and the lives of Americans. If they did their jobs a little too well, they’re rotting in Fort Leavenworth.”
He then returned to his conspiracy theory that Obama may have ordered a hit to take out Justice Scalia, claiming that the president is now similarly threatening members of Congress and refusing to fight terrorism in order to “fight the American patriots” and start “killing people with impunity.”
While relieved that Obama hasn’t “figured out a way to take guns out of your cold, dying hands,” Savage said “there is a lot of time left” for the president to “take away your right to bear arms” and “have the exact power that Castro has over his people, turn them into slaves, in essence, frightened, little slaves.
Senate Republicans took their partisan obstructionism to an unprecedented, wildly irresponsible level this month – they are flat out refusing to even consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Obama. It’s a blatantly political move that the GOP is trying to justify with nonsense explanations, like “we’ve never confirmed a Supreme Court justice in an election year before” (false), and “the American people should have a say in the selection of the next justice” (they did, when they re-elected President Obama in 2012). As much as they might want to pretend otherwise, Republicans are refusing to do their jobs – and threatening to keep a seat on our nation’s highest court empty until 2017!
But we're not about to let them get away with it. That's why we've launched an emergency campaign to counter the GOP's blockade and fill the Supreme Court's vacancy. PFAW is uniquely qualified to lead this fight. Since the 1980s we've been the national leader in fighting the Right's efforts to pack the courts with extreme right-wing ideologues. And that's exactly what they're trying to do now, by keeping a vacancy on the Court for an entire year and playing politics with our federal judiciary. Republicans are shirking their constitutional responsibility to give fair consideration to a Supreme Court nominee and they must be held accountable. We have a long, tough road ahead of us, but we're not backing down, and we're so grateful to have PFAW members like you on board with us for this historic fight.
Just hours after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Republicans made their intentions known: no fair consideration of any nominee put forward by President Obama. So we leapt into action that weekend, mobilizing supporters and activists for an impromptu rally outside of the Supreme Court that has already become the image of the movement, appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, the Atlantic, and more. We also held a campaign kickoff telebriefing this month for PFAW members across the country, to discuss our strategy for pushing the GOP to back off their unprecedented obstructionism
We're also fighting back by turning up the pressure on Senate Republicans. We teamed up with partner organizations to deliver over 500,000 petition signatures calling for fair consideration of a nominee to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Kentucky office. And this week we delivered one million signatures to the U.S. Senate! Americans want to see this Supreme Court vacancy filled, and we're making sure Republicans know that by refusing to consider a nominee, they're going against their constituents.
GOP senators’ refusal to even consider any Supreme Court nominee isn’t just a violation of their constitutional responsibility – it’s also not what their constituents want! Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans support filling the Supreme Court vacancy, and for some Republican senators, the blockade is already hurting them with voters. We’re working to identify those Senators, and hit them where it hurts: with their constituents. In a robocall we released in Wisconsin this month, activists heard from Martin Sheen about Sen. Ron Johnson’s obstruction of President Obama’s nominee. Sheen asked Wisconsinites to call Sen. Johnson and tell him to put his constitutional duties first, and give fair consideration to whoever President Obama nominates. The robocalls received immediate media attention – exactly what Sen. Johnson doesn’t want. We’re strategizing similar actions for other states where Republican senators are facing tough re-election battles.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, has endorsed his fellow Texas Republican Ted Cruz’s bid for the presidency, but he had some words of admiration for Donald Trump in an interview today with “Breitbart News Daily,” saying that the GOP frontrunner has “taken on political correctness” and “even the pope, for heaven’s sakes.”
Gohmert warned that “at some point” Trump’s attacks on the pope and others will become an “Achilles’ heel,” but the congressman took the opportunity to criticize the pope for believing in climate change.
He criticized the pope for “saying that the number-one problem is climate change and that he can’t see that socialism, anywhere it’s ever been done, it’s always led to, you know, just a totalitarian government.”
“When everybody’s in heaven, socialism will be great,” he told the program’s host, Steven Bannon, “but in this world it’s never worked, it requires totalitarian government, it requires giving up your freedoms, your freedom of speech and religion and all these things. So it’s amazing to see a pope who’s saying let’s all get behind the thing that always destroys freedom of religion.”
“I also noticed, Steven, that it seems like when you hear somebody say over and over again that climate change is our biggest problem, they don’t know that climate has been changing a lot worse over all the millennia of mankind,” Gohmert said. “In fact, I asked a witness, hey, is it as warm as it was back when Leif Erickson and the Norse came across to Greenland and had all those farms in Greenland? He said, it’s never gotten anywhere close to being that warm since then. Do we have any idea what kind of internal combustion engines they were using back then that was causing all this climate change?”
There has been much hand-wringing among some of Sen. Ted Cruz’s supporters about Donald Trump’s success with evangelical voters, once thought to be a safe voting bloc for Cruz. Exit polls in South Carolina showed the thrice-married, biblically shaky Trump winning the plurality of white evangelical and born-again Republican voters, with Cruz, who has made his faith the centerpiece of his campaign, coming in second among that group.
Steve Deace, a conservative Iowa talk radio host and Cruz supporter, asked Cruz’s father, Rafael, about the development in an interview yesterday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, which is taking place this week in Nashville.
“How in the world does Donald Trump win evangelical voters in South Carolina?” Deace asked. “What does that say about where we’re at as a church, or does it say anything about where we’re at as a church across the board?”
The Texas Republican’s father responded that the evangelicals who vote for Trump may not be real evangelicals, but have instead been influenced by a “politically correct” culture and forgotten the “word of God.”
“Well, I think that they’re defining evangelicals in a very loose manner,” he said, “If we look at the numbers, those that are people that call themselves born-again Christians that are committed to the lord, we won overwhelmingly among that group. Unfortunately — and this is a message that I have been carrying to America, as you said, for several years — there are too many people in the church that have actually become lax about the word of God, that they are being more concerned with being politically correct than being biblically correct, they have diluted the word of God in order to be palatable to everyone.”
Deace, for his part, wondered if those who identify as evangelical in South Carolina and other southern states are merely reflecting a “cultural Christianity” and are not actually faithful, practicing Christians.
“Is it possible that people, because they’re conforming to a cultural standard, think because they celebrate Christmas and Easter and ‘I love America and I believe in the Second Amendment, that makes me an evangelical’?” he wondered.
Cruz agreed that this explanation “is entirely possible.”
The closed-door meeting in Texas in December at which dozens of Religious Right leaders agreed to rally around Ted Cruz for president was in some ways a big payoff for years of work by Republican political operative David Lane. Lane believes America was founded by and for Christians and has a national mission to advance the Christian faith. He sees politics as spiritual warfare against the evil forces of secularism and “pagan” homosexuality. Lane has been building an “army” of conservative evangelical pastors to run for office and turn their churches into get-out-the-vote operations for Republican candidates.
Lane’s allies and funders played an essential role in putting together that secret endorsement meeting for Ted Cruz, which came after months of indications that Cruz, who has never met a Religious Right figure too extreme to embrace, was winning the“Christian-nation primary.” Shortly after that meeting, Cruz and his Religious Right fans gathered at a ranch owned by Farris Wilks, a fracking billionaire who, with his brother, gave $15 million to a pro-Cruz super PAC. The Wilks brothers are big fundersof Lane’s efforts and other far-right political causes. A separate, but affiliated, Cruz super PAC is being run by another Christian-nation activist, right-wing “historian”David Barton.
Lane believes that conservative evangelicals split their votes in the 2008 and 2012 Republican primaries and were stuck with nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney, vowing that this year would be different. Conservative evangelicals would be inspired into action by politically engaged pastors and would choose a presidential nominee who shared Lane’s Christian-nation vision. They would elect an evangelical president who would help lead the nation to spiritual and political renewal.
But 2016’s campaign is different in ways Lane could not have anticipated. In South Carolina, the divinely anointed Cruz campaign took third place, with Donald Trump sweeping the most heavily evangelical parts of the state and beating Cruz handily among evangelical voters. Many of the state’s Republican leaders threw their support not to Cruz, but to Marco Rubio; chief among them was Gov. Nikki Haley, who hadhosted one of Lane’s political prayer rallies last summer. Trump won by an even bigger margin in the Nevada caucuses.
Shortly before the South Carolina primary, Cruz was in Spartanburg to meet privately with “hundreds of pastors and their wives” at a meeting sponsored by David Lane’s American Renewal Project. Cruz’s appearance was supplemented by a softballinterview with Lane’s “good friend” David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network. In that interview, Cruz made a version of his standard pitch for a presidential run based on turnout of evangelical Christians. Cruz told Brody,
"If we allow our leaders to be selected from non-believers we shouldn't be surprised when our leaders don't share our values. So what I'm working to do more than anything else is energize and empower the grassroots and do everything we can for Christians to stand up and vote biblical values.”
After the election, Brody acknowledged that Trump had beaten Cruz among the state’s evangelical voters. Brody’s explanation?
Evangelicals are upset with the Republican Party too. They’ve felt like cheap political pawns for years, constantly being used by the GOP to get out and vote and then having nothing to show for it. With Trump, many of those evangelicals feel like they’ve found the politically incorrect mouthpiece to channel their inner frustration. Is he the most righteous man to carry the torch? No. Is he the most transparent and authentic one? Clearly, they believe so.
Journalist Sarah Posner has written about the ways that Trump divides the Christian Right. Trump has been endorsed by Jerry Falwell, Jr. even though the candidate is “unabashedly ignorant of the biblical imperatives that form the foundation of evangelical culture and politics.” Trump’s support indicates that many evangelicals do not, in fact, share the culture-war priorities of the movement’s leaders, Posner suggests, adding that Trump is the candidate who most resembles a prosperity-gospel televangelist who portrays wealth as a sign of God’s favor. Says Posner, “Trump’s supporters -- both evangelical and not -- apparently are willing to believe that worshiping self-serving hype will somehow produce a miracle for them.”
Along similar lines, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said in January that Ted Cruz was leading in the Jerry Falwell wing of the evangelical movement, Marco Rubio in the Billy Graham wing, and Trump in the Jimmy Swaggart wing.
In a recent article for In These Times, Theo Anderson also took a look at the “great puzzle” of evangelical Christians flocking to Trump, “the Republican candidate most out of step with evangelicals on social issues and the most tin-eared regarding religion.” Anderson concludes that Trump’s success reflects many evangelicals’ desire for an “anti-establishment” candidate as well as what he calls Trump’s performance of a prophetic style of politics practiced by conservative radio preachers who encourage their listeners to stand against the corruptions of the world: “Trump’s speeches and social media output are a stream of falsehoods that speak to the certainty - the ‘higher truth’ - that white Christians, and the nation they love, are being betrayed and targeted.”
Trump, for his part, has embraced the Religious Right’s claims that Christians in America are under “assault,” particularly from department stores and coffee chains that don’t show due reverence to Christmas, and that Muslims pose an existential threat to the country.
Trump’s success among evangelicals is maddening to some of Cruz’s backers. Glenn Beck, who believes God has called Cruz to save America from the abyss, had urged his viewers to fast on Cruz’s behalf before the Nevada caucuses. Beck says he fears that Trump is the embodiment of “The Bubba Effect,” in which a group of people are pushed over the edge into violence by an overbearing government. Beck says that only the election of Ted Cruz can save America from violent revolution, warning that the country will not be able to recover if it elects a socialist, authoritarian, or member of the status quo.
Speaking of authoritarians, political scientist Matthew MacWilliams wrote recently that the single most significant predictor of a voter’s support for Trump is their level of authoritarian inclinations, which suggests that support for Trump’s blustery strongman routine is detached to some degree from a voter’s ideological or theological leanings. That’s one reason Trump’s campaign frightens some conservatives who see Trump’s insistence that he’d be a fix-it strongman (to some commentators, a would-be Mussolini), as undermining conservatives’ political and intellectual campaign against a strong federal government.
Of course, Trump hasn’t rejected the Religious Right policy agenda. In fact he has fully embraced much of it, pledging to defund Planned Parenthood as long as the organization performs abortions. He has supported Senate Republicans’ vow not to consider any Obama Supreme Court nominee and vowed to nominate Supreme Court justices “as close to Scalia as you could find.” He has called the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “shocking” and suggested Religious Right activists should trust him to put judges on the Court who would “unpass” that ruling and Roe v. Wade. Those kind of pledges may help Trump win conservative evangelical votes, or at least make evangelicals feel more comfortable voting for him in spite of a political and personal record that contravenes the values they say they hold dear.
The campaign for the GOP nomination isn’t over, but Religious Right leaders must be wondering how it is that their Chosen One has faltered and seems to be losing ground to the charlatan Trump. In fact, National Review reported on Wednesday that Religious Right leaders who rallied around Cruz are talking amongst themselves aboutabandoning him for Rubio if Cruz doesn’t do well on “Super Tuesday” next week.
If Trump is the nominee, many religious conservatives will vote for him because he is the Republican candidate. But it could be a bitter pill, one that some may not be able to swallow. In National Review’s seemingly ineffectual issue devoted to making a case against Trump as the Republican nominee, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission wrote:
Trump can win only in the sort of celebrity-focused mobocracy that Neil Postman warned us about years ago, in which sound moral judgments are displaced by a narcissistic pursuit of power combined with promises of “winning” for the masses. Social and religious conservatives have always seen this tendency as decadent and deviant. For them to view it any other way now would be for them to lose their soul.
But Trump continues to reach out to the conservative evangelical leaders. He headed to Pat Robertson’s Regent University on Wednesday, where Robertson told him, “you inspire us all,” and invited him to come back to Regent after the election as President Trump. And while Trump isn’t the candidate around whom many Religious Right leaders decided to coalesce, Christian-nation activist David Lane may harbor some hopes for a Trump candidacy. Last summer Lane said of Trump, “America is starving for moral, principled leadership. I hope that Donald Trump brings that.”