As discussed in a prior post, Sen. Marco Rubio and Donald Trump both addressed right-wing audiences in Orlando. On August 11th, Trump spoke before an audience of clergy members and their spouses at the Pastors and Pews gathering in Orlando, according to Bloomberg. The event was sponsored by the American Renewal Project, whose founder, David Lane, opposes LGBTQ equality. To add insult to injury for the LGBTQ community the gathering took place shortly before the two-month anniversary of the Orlando Pulse massacre.
C-SPAN posted a video of Trump's speech. At the podium, Trump avoided talk about LGBTQ issues, focusing instead on naked pandering to his conservative evangelical audience. Trump told his listeners that they had been silenced by the Johnson amendment, assuring them that he would repeal the amendment if elected president. Feeding his audience's sense of imagined persecution, Trump promised to address that supposed persecution by weakening church-state separation.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee introduced Trump. At the 2:03 mark, Huckabee assured his audience that Trump had Christian credentials.
"I'm also aware that a lot of my fellow believers and evangelicals sometimes say, 'Is Donald Trump, like, one of us?' Well, let me try to be as blunt as I can be. He may not sit in the front of a church like yours every Sunday. He may not be as expressive or as loud about his own faith or convictions about things like being pro-life, which he is, and if he wasn't, I wouldn't be standing here today. But folks, some people will eat their soup a little louder than others. It doesn't mean that the soup tastes better."Trump took his place at the podium and spent the next forty minutes reinforcing his audience's imagined persecution complex with phrases such as, "Without religious liberty, you don't have liberty" and "You've been silenced, like a child has been silenced". He called Christian clergy "the most powerful lobby there is, and yet you've been totally silenced," referring to the Johnson amendment that prevents tax-exempt entities such as churches from endorsing political candidates. "It's Lyndon Johnson wanting to silence people that didn't feel so good about him, in particular one church," he said of the policy.
At the 14:01 mark, Trump shared a story in which he was stunned that religious leaders couldn't endorse him because of church-state separation, having been ignorant of the Johnson amendment.
"So I'm in the room with many of the pastors and some ministers, and they're going like, 'Well, we can't really do that.' I said, 'Why? Why can't you do that? I don't understand. I know you like me. Why aren't you endorsing me?' "Well, we just can't' ... These were strong men ... and women ... It wasn't that they didn't want to tell me. It's almost like they got used to this thing around their neck and eyes, and it's almost like they couldn't see ... After a lot of prodding, they said, 'Well, we don't want to lose our tax-exempt status." I said, 'What does that have to do with your tax-exempt status?', not knowing. And it basically has to do with the 501(c)(3) status that they can't get involved from the standpoint of essentially freedom of speech. So you have these powerful people with a great voice. You know that Christianity...has had a very, very tough time."At the 34:43 mark, Trump pressed his listeners to make voters out of their congregants at all costs.
"You have to get your congregations and you have to get parishioners, you have to get all of your people to go out and vote. You got to get them to sign those cards early. In many cases, you can vote before November 8th. This way, there's no excuses. I joke a lot, and I say if you're sick, if you've just got the worst prognosis that a doctor can give you, if you're lying in bed and you just know you're not going to make it, you have to get up on November 8th and you have to vote."Considering how disappointing Trump's poll numbers look, it's no wonder that he's begging for every vote he can get.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Bloomberg: Trump Goes Traditional With Florida Meeting of Evangelical Leaders
Right Wing Watch: Donald Trump: Vote For Me To Help Me Get Into Heaven
Mother Jones: Trump Addresses Conference Hosted by a Group Whose Leader Called Homosexuality a Marxist Plot