Tim Wildmon’s assessment from meeting with Trump:
I just wanted to report back to you about the meeting in New York … between GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and Christian leaders from across the country.
Franklin Graham prayed to open the event. Dr. Ben Carson spoke and told us about the Donald Trump he had come to appreciate. Gov. Mike Huckabee served as moderator and sat across from Mr. Trump.
Trump entertained questions from the likes of Dr. David Jeremiah, Dr. James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Kelly Shackelford and Sammy Rodriguez. The questions were about religious freedom, Israel, potential Supreme Court nominees and abortion.
I thought his strongest answers were about the type of judges he would appoint. I believe he fully understands the importance of this issue and said all his judges would be vetted by the Federalist Society — a stalwart conservative organization. To me, this may be the most important issue of this campaign from the perspective of American Family Association and our supporters. After all, the next president will likely appoint two or more Supreme Court justices in the next four years. As we have seen over the last few years, it doesn’t matter how many good laws are passed if the courts are going to strike them down.
Trump’s weakness is that he did not clearly state his views in answer to the questions asked by Perkins and Shackelford about when religious freedom and the LGBT movement come into conflict, other than to say that these matters will be decided by the courts. He repeatedly said he was for religious freedom and his fallback position was that he would appoint judges who would defend religious freedom.
Mr. Trump also said he was tired of the political correctness surrounding matters of our Christian heritage and used Christmas an an example. He said companies want to profit off of Christmas but then don’t want to use the word “Christmas.” He said he says “Merry Christmas” and thinks the PC crowd just wants to change the greeting to something more generic because it’s another attempt to diminish the role of Christianity in America. (This made me wonder if he’s been reading the AFA Journal. Ha!)
Trump answered Dr. Jeremiah’s question about Israel saying he would be a strong supporter of the nation of Israel and never understood Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats who don’t support Israel. Trump also understands the threat to our country by Islamic jihadism. He has taken a lot of heat from the liberal media for criticizing the problems within Islam.
On a personal note, I met several people who have known Donald Trump personally for several years and said he is not the brash, arrogant, sometimes rude person he appears to be on television. I will say without the media cameras in his face, he was pleasant, relaxed, funny and more thoughtful.
I think it was admirable and honorable for Trump to meet with Christian leaders. He is not our enemy. I believe he has instincts that are reverent and patriotic. He’s 69 years old and remembers an America that was once a great country but has lost her way. But he also comes from a very secular world and that way of thinking is a part of who he is. In some ways, he strikes me as an enigma, a man still searching for spiritual answers in his life. But that’s just my opinion. I will say this, he is listening to some great men of God that I have a lot of respect for, and that’s a good thing.
To conclude, who but the Lord knows what lies ahead for Donald Trump? He wasn’t my first choice for president but the majority of GOP voters chose him. Now either he or Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States of America. So if one of them shows genuine interest in understanding Christians better and says he will be our friend, I believe we should tell him what we think and where we stand. To use a sports word, I think he’s coachable.
I’m glad I came to New York. It was worth it. I would ask you to pray for Mr. Trump and our country.
Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association
June 21, 2016
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