Evangelical Christians will have a “true friend” in the White House if Donald Trump is elected president, a Southern Baptist mega-church pastor said at a Trump campaign rally Feb. 26 in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Donald Trump cares about and loves evangelical Christians,” Robert Jeffress, Fox News personality and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas said during Friday’s rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
“One time when Ronald Reagan was running for president of the United States — the first time — he met with a group of evangelical leaders, and he said, ‘Although you can’t endorse me, I want you to know I endorse you,’” said Jeffress, summoned to the stage after the candidate spotted him in the crowd. “I have met with Mr. Trump on several occasions, and I can tell you from personal experience, if Donald Trump is elected president of the United States, we who are evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House. God bless Donald Trump!”
Trump, who has been criticized by evangelical leaders including Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he has received “tremendous support” from evangelical leaders such as Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who endorsed him in January, and televangelist Paula White, who arranged last year’s meeting between Trump and 30 Christian leaders, including Jeffress.
If elected, Trump said one of his first priorities in office would be to change the tax code to remove a prohibition on electioneering by tax-exempt charities such as churches.
Trump said he has met with ministers who said they wanted to endorse him but were afraid doing so might jeopardize their church’s tax-exempt status.
Trump said the rule makes pastors “less powerful than a man or woman walking up or down the street” and prevents millions of American Christians from forming a lobby “because they don’t want to lose their tax status.”
“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,” Trump pledged. “This took place during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, and it has had a terrible chilling effect.”
Trump said there was “furor” when he suggested a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the country as a precaution against terrorism. “If I would have said ‘Christian,’ people would have said, ‘Oh we can’t do anything about it,’” he said.
“That’s going to end, folks,” Trump said. “We’re going to say Merry Christmas now on Christmas.”
Jeffress, who has appeared with Trump several times during the campaign but stopped short of a formal endorsement, said one of the things he knows about the candidate is “that he is truly pro-life.”
“I have talked to him in Trump Towers,” Jeffress said. “He believes that protecting the unborn is an issue that we as Christians care about. And I’ll tell you what, some of you who say ‘Well I don’t know if his pro-life conversion was real,’ let me tell you something: Hillary Clinton doesn’t claim any pro-life conversion. If you go for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, there is no doubt you’re going to have the most pro-abortion president in history.”