In the same week that the House of Representatives voted to adopt rules for an official impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump was surrounded both physically and metaphorically by religious right leaders who signaled their continued loyalty to him and willingness to demonize his political opponents. On Tuesday, about two dozen of Trump’s evangelical advisers—some might say cheerleaders—met at the White House to celebrate Trump and give him a standing ovation and their continued blessing.
Based on reports of the get-together, it was a variation on one of Trump’s cabinet meetings, at which Trump’s accomplishments are touted and the president is lavished with obsequious praise. The leaders may also have been asked, as Republican leaders have been, to more aggressively attack the House impeachment inquiry.
It’s not at all rare for evangelical leaders to gather at Trump’s White House; prosperity gospel preacher and Trump spiritual adviser Paula White keeps a steady flow of religious right figures moving through 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. . White, who has declared Trump’s opponents “demonic,” told Jim Bakker’s viewers this month that Christians will stand accountable before God if they don’t vote for Trump’s reelection. The New York Times reported on Thursday that White has officially joined the White House staff.
Team Trump is counting on right-wing Christian leaders to blunt bad news about Trump’s wrongdoing and to push for a massive turnout of conservative evangelical voters in 2020. While some are unhappy about Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds and its potentially devastating consequences for Christians in Syria, Trump has followed through on his pledges to give religious right leaders the Supreme Court of their dreams. Trump has also given them a judiciary filled with federal judges who they believe will use the federal courts to advance their culture war agenda of criminalizing abortion, reversing marriage equality, and redefining religious liberty into an expansive license to ignore nondiscrimination law and undermine church-state separation.
The White House released photos showing the group gathered around a table in the Roosevelt Room and a shot of the group surrounding Trump and laying their hands on him in prayer.
The Christian Broadcasting Network published a list of attendees, which included pastors and political operatives and people who function as both. In addition to White, it included:
- Lourdes Aguirre, President of Eresamerica
- Michelle Bachmann, Former Congresswoman
- Pastor Luke Barnett, Senior Pastor of Dream City Church
- Gary Bauer, President of American Values
- Dr. Tim Clinton, President of American Association of Christian Counselors
- Apostle Alberto Delgado, Pastor of Alpha & Omega
- Dr. James Dobson, Founder of Dr. James Dobson Family Institute
- Shirley Dobson, Co-Founder of Dr. James Dobson Family Institute
- Pastor Jentezen Franklin, Senior Pastor of Free Chapel
- Pastor Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor of Skyline Church San Diego
- Dr. Jack Graham, Senior Pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church
- Pastor Harry Jackson Jr., Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church
- Pastor Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Dallas
- Pastor Greg Laurie, Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship
- Apostle Guillermo Maldonado, Co-Founder and Senior Pastor of El Rey Jesْs
- Pastor Robert Morris, Senior Pastor of Gateway Church
- Pastor Tom Mullins, Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship
- Ralph Reed, Founder and Chairman of Faith & Freedom Coalition
- Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- Dr. Jay Strack, Founder of Student Leadership University
- Cissie Graham Lynch, Samaritan’s Purse
- Reverend Johnnie Moore, President of The Kairos Company
- Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council
- Pastor Matte Gregg, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Houston
Many of the attendees took to social media this week to celebrate having been back at the White House, and to trash House Democrats for daring to advance an impeachment inquiry against Trump, who many of them consider to have been anointed and put into office by God.
Ralph Reed declared, “I have never seen a president more focused, more in command” despite Trump having been “treated horribly.” On Thursday, Reed called the impeachment inquiry “a sham” and “an attack on our democracy.”
Johnnie Moore said, “Evangelical leaders see this, not as impeaching Donald Trump, but they’re trying to impeach me and my values.”
Tony Perkins sounded a similar theme, tweeting, “It is clear to me the impeachment is less about the president and more about his pro-life, pro-family policies.”
Jack Graham repeated White House talking points, calling the impeachment investigation a “sham.”
Robert Jeffress, consistently among the most shameless Trump boosters, declared on Twitter on Thursday, “This impeachment farce will fall flat and only energize President @realDonaldTrump’s base more for a massive landslide win in 2020.”
Jim Garlow, an anti-LGBTQ activist, weighed in on Facebook Thursday evening:
Authentic Biblical Christians – be alert what the radical, lawless leftists are REALLY doing.
This is not really about the impeaching of the President. There is no impeachable offense. They are “impeaching the values” that authentically Biblical Christians stand for: protecting life in the womb, defending Israel, introducing healthy (Biblical) economic policies that allow people to have gainful employment, protecting the natural, nuclear family (father / mothers / children), strong military defense, etc. They really don’t want to make America authentically good and great. They want to impeach all that is good.