The Evangelicals for Trump arm of President Donald Trump’s reelection operation held a Thursday night campaign event in Georgia at which prominent religious-right figures portrayed the president’s political opponents as agents of Satan and told conservative Christian voters that the election of Joe Biden would mean the end of religious freedom in America.
The event was emceed by Todd Lamphere, who works for White House aide and Trump spiritual adviser Paula White. Lamphere helps White use her official position and her One Voice Prayer Movement to promote Christian nationalist rhetoric and assist Trump’s political outreach to conservative evangelical Christians.
White was the event’s keynote speaker, and she drew on her long relationship with Trump to heap praise on his character, generosity, faith, and commitment to conservative evangelical leaders’ political priorities. She agreed with other speakers that “God has put him here.” And she engaged in the religious freedom fear-mongering that is shaping up as a key Trump campaign strategy, as it was in 2016. “They want to take our churches. They want to take our freedoms. They want to take our liberties. They want to take everything,” she said.
White described Biden as “a Trojan horse for a very radical left agenda that is behind him that wants to take down our churches.” She claimed that “this radical left agenda will take God out of everything.”
“You get to make a decision on Nov. 3,” she said. “Will you stand for God? Will you stand for the church?”
White was preceded by a series of religious-right leaders who took turns praising Trump and warning of disaster if he is not reelected.
Jentezen Franklin, a pastor with a multi-campus megachurch based outside Atlanta, highlighted the importance of future Supreme Court nominees. “This election is not about four more years. This election is about 37 more years, because if our president appoints two more Supreme Court justices, it’s going to affect your children and your children’s children[‘s] America that they grow up in,” Franklin warned conservative Christians. “Speak now or forever hold your peace. You won’t have another chance. You won’t have freedom of religion. You won’t have freedom of speech.”
Franklin, whose son Drake was introduced at the event as the executive director of the Evangelicals for Trump campaign, warned that a “massive dismantling of the America that God has so blessed and prospered and used greater than any nation in the history of the world” is just three months away. But he finished on an upbeat note, telling people, “We have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” and predicting a “tremendous miracle” on Election Day.
The elder Franklin was recently sued by Mike Evans, another pro-Trump evangelical leader, who has charged Franklin with failing to turn over millions of dollars he says Franklin raised for projects for Holocaust survivors that Evans’ ministry runs in Israel. Franklin’s church has denied the charges.
Up next was Harry Jackson, an anti-LGBTQ activist, member of the Trump-supporting Pentecostal network POTUS Shield, and prominent Black religious-right figure. Jackson, who has battled cancer and other health challenges, put a positive spin on the crises facing the country, saying, “America is going through a healing.” He used some of his time to promote his new book, “A Manifesto: Christian America’s Contract with Minorities.” Jackson finished with one of his favored rhetorical devices, asking people to join him in chanting a verse from the biblical book of Psalms, “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered.” Jackson added this plea: “Oh, God, move in America. Bless this campaign. Raise up Donald Trump one more time.”
Political operative Ralph Reed, who helped build the religious-right into a dominant political force in the Republican Party in the 1990s, spoke next. Reed, who ran unsuccessfully to be the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor in Georgia in 2006, praised the role that he said “the Bible-believing, God-fearing evangelical Christians” played in Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s defeat of Stacey Abrams in 2018. “We’re going to do it again in November for Donald Trump, and for [Sen.] David Perdue and for pro-life and pro-family candidates up and down the ballot,” he added.
Reed praised Trump’s judicial nominees. “Now, for better or for worse, every issue that you and I care about, every value that beats in the heart and gives meaning to your soul, is ultimately decided by those courts,” Reed said. “And whoever is elected president is going to appoint at least two and maybe three more Supreme Court justices.”
“Now, we got a big job to do in the next hundred days,” Reed concluded. “Let’s go out and do it, not just to reelect [Trump], but to glorify God and make sure that Christians are the head and not the tail, and the top and not the bottom, of our political system.”
Anti-abortion activist Alveda King, also a member of POTUS Shield, praised Trump’s anti-abortion record and said that the church’s “spiritual assignment” is not to make Christians retreat in fear but to encourage them to “wake up and fight.”
That theme was picked up by Atlanta-based pastor Richard Lee, the final speaker before White took the stage. Lee said the church is “the army of the Lord” in the war “between the hosts of heaven and the demons of hell.” He denounced governors and mayors whose COVID-19-related public health rules have restricted the ways that churches can gather, which he described as a “preview” of the ways that the government would “come after churches” if Biden were elected president this year.
Among those Lee trashed in his remarks were what Lee called “atheistic socialistic demonic school teachers” who teach children “garbage” and the Democratic Party, which he said “has been taken over by the spirit of the Antichrist” and is “an evil party.”
Lee is editor of the American Patriot’s Bible, a Christian-nation version of the scriptures published in 2009 that one critic called “one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed coming from a Christian publishing house.”
After White’s remarks, the evening ended with prayer and exhortation for people be politically active.
“Listen, we have had a night of inspiration. We’ve had a night of information. We’ve had a time of intercession. But it must lead to a time of involvement,” Lamphere said. “If all this was was a pep rally, then we’ve grossly mismanaged our evening. If this doesn’t move you to do something, then God help us.”
Lamphere urged people to sign up to work as poll monitors. “One of the most important things you can do as a servant of God is to protect the ballot box on Election Day,” Lamphere said.