Two past presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention and a retired agency head were among 86 Roman Catholic and evangelical leaders in an open letter Oct. 12 denouncing what they call anti-Christian bigotry in the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
The letter, published on Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign website, expressed collective outrage at “demeaning and troubling rhetoric” used by high-level Clinton campaign staffers to describe evangelical and Catholic communities.
The letter came in response to documents published last week by WikiLeaks that appear to show Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri, a Catholic, joking about evangelicals and Catholics in emails sent to John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign and subject of the hack reportedly being investigated as a possible Russian cyberattack.
The immediate past president of the SBC, Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, and Jack Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, who served as SBC president in 2003 and 2004, signed the letter, along with Richard Land, retired head of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
Other Southern Baptist signers included Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, and Mathew Staver, director of the Liberty Council who served this summer on the SBC Resolutions Committee. All but Staver are members of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
The letter said the recently released emails “clearly ridicule, demean and smear Roman Catholics and evangelicals” and “reveal a contempt for all traditional Christians.” The religious leaders called on the former Secretary of State “to immediately apologize for the Christophobic behavior of her associates.”
Floyd told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Oct 17 that evangelicals have serious questions about the character of both candidates, but one of them will end up in the White House and appoint as many as four U.S. Supreme Court justices.
“Presidents will come and go, but their appointments can last for a generation,” Floyd said.
“This election is not about these two personalities as much as it is about the future of America,” he said. “The key is not whom we endorse, but which of these two candidates endorse what we as evangelicals believe and practice.”
A LifeWay Research poll taken before the second presidential debate showed Trump leading Clinton by double digits among Americans who hold evangelical beliefs. Forty-five percent of evangelicals said they plan to vote for Trump, compared to 31 percent for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Eight percent said they were voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, while 15 percent remained undecided.
Jimmy Draper, a former SBC president and retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette he will vote Republican because the party’s platform more closely reflects his own values.
“We’re really picking between two evils or two lesser desirables,” Draper said, adding that he is glad that Trump is seeking advice from evangelical leaders.
“He, at least, is listening,” Draper said.