Speaking at the Values Voter Summit, the GOP presidential nominee received several standing ovations from the packed ballroom of Christian conservatives.
Trump has at times struggled to convince social conservatives that he can be a trusted advocate for the causes that are important to them, but many have come around as they consider the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Trump: “In a Trump Administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished…like you’ve never seen before.” https://t.co/oNDhwuoJ0y
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 9, 2016
Trump focused heavily on school choice, religious liberty, the Supreme Court and the threat of terrorism — all of which are among the top issues for the social conservatives at the yearly conference.
And he hit the social conservative sweet spot in bemoaning how culture, aided by the liberal media, has turned away from traditional values.
“Our media culture often mocks and demeans people of faith,” Trump said. “All the time, I hear from concerned parents how much harder it is for Christian families to raise their children in today’s media environment. Your values of love, charity and faith built this nation. So how can it be that our media treats people of faith so poorly?”
“One of the reasons is that our politicians have abandoned you to a large extent, and Hillary Clinton you can forget about her,” he said.
The crowd erupted, with one conference-goer shouting: “Put her in jail!
Several of the early speakers at the conference — Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) among them – expressed ambivalence toward Trump, while acknowledging that he is still the best choice between the two major-party nominees.
“I would like to tell you that one day we’ll have the perfect candidate to lead this country, but I don’t know what to tell you, I don’t think it will happen anytime soon,” Scott said.
“But this year our election, it matters and it’s a binary choice for me,” he continued. “It’s either you vote for the policies to continue that have been in place … or you can vote for hope, for an alternative, you can vote, to make America great again.”
That was the theme that emerged throughout the day, as conservatives warned that a Clinton presidency would be death blow for social conservatives.
There is tremendous anxiety among Christians that Clinton will tap ultra-liberal Supreme Court justices who will infringe on their right to freely practice their faith.
Trump on Friday won big applause for vowing to repeal The Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing political candidates.
Trump left his script to tell the story of how frustrated he was when asking for the endorsements from a group of Christian leaders that gathered to meet with in New York City earlier this year, only to find out they were prohibited from doing so.
“The first thing we have to do is give our churches their voice back,” Trump said. “The Johnson Amendment has blocked our pastors from speaking their minds from their own pulpit. If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach or talk about politics, they’re unable to do so, they take a tremendous risk that they’ll lose their of their tax-exempt status.”
Trump also warned that Clinton does not understand the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), casting the threat from the terror group as one of particular urgency to Christians.
“ISIS is hunting down and exterminating what it calls the nation of the cross,” Trump said. “ISIS is carrying out a genocide against Christians in the Middle East and we cannot let this evil continue. ISIS must be destroyed.”
And he basked in the plaudits he’s received from conservatives for releasing a slate of conservative Supreme Court justices he’d appoint as president.
“Hillary Clinton has refused to provide such a list, because she knows the extremist judges she would pick would be rejected by the overwhelming majority of the American public,” Trump said. “Clinton’s judicial picks would allow her to completely takeover American healthcare, the American economy, and Americans’ religious liberty.”
It was a far more self-assured appearance for Trump than in 2015, when he wielded the Bible he said his mother gave him as a child and talked about the importance of saying “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.”
Trump left the stage to a standing ovation and headed for a rally in Florida later this evening.
H/T – TheHill
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