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.