Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump will meet with a group of around 700 evangelical pastors this week, hoping to win over hardline, anti-gay Religious Right leaders who have thus far been hesitant to embrace his struggling candidacy.
Trump is scheduled to speak on Thursday at a closed-door meeting in Orlando, Florida hosted by the American Renewal Project (ARP), a group of evangelical Christian pastors. The event has been widely criticized as anti-LGBT, with another selected speaker — former Florida senator and former GOP presidential candidate Mark Rubio — fending off accusations of insensitivity for appearing at the event so soon after the tragic murder of nearly 50 people in Orlando at a gay nightclub in June.
Rubio has also defended his doing so, won’t shut up about it, actually. These are people who have no empathy whatsoever, don’t know what compassion means, and are utterly bereft of lowly sympathy.
Accusations of anti-gay sentiment are rooted in inflammatory statements made by the ARP’s founder, David Lane. Lane’s group is sponsored by the American Family Association, which is listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In addition, he has personally called for “war” against the “pagan onslaught imposing homosexual marriage” in the past, and repeated similarly bombastic sentiments to Bloomberg this week.
“Homosexual totalitarianism is out of the closet, the militants are trying herd Christians there,” Lane said.
Indeed, Lane appeared hopeful that Trump would be swayed to his right-wing ideology. He said he appreciated the businessman’s support for repealing the Johnson Amendment — the law that makes it illegal for churches to retain tax-exempt status if they explicitly endorse candidates — but remained focused on pushing him to embrace policies many believe discriminate against LGBT people in the name of religion.
“[Repealing the Johnson Amendment is] a good first step,” Lane told Bloomberg. “But what about the religious liberty of Christian photographers, Christian bakers, Christian retreat centers, and pastors who believe same-sex intercourse and marriage is sin? These Christians were simply living out their deeply held convictions of their Christian faith when they politely refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding. Doesn’t the First Amendment give us all a right to our beliefs?”
As usual, these bigoted hate-mongers manage to completey lose the “all” in all a right to our beliefs. Yes, we certainly do have the privilege to believe whatever we like, no matter how daft, reasonable, or hateful. The key word being all. That means you don’t get to make the rules, Mr. Lane. Your right to believe what you like does not extend to harming people, and yes, discrimination is harm.
Trump could, hypothetically, push on without such endorsements, but there is a tactical value at stake: Evangelical turnout operations are often heavily reliant on leadership — especially faith leaders who attend Pastors and Pews meetings, many of whom played a key role in evangelical get-out-the-vote efforts during the 2012 election cycle.
This means Lane’s wish for a more vocally-anti-LGBT Trump could very come true, if only out political necessity. Nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Christians remain opposed to marriage equality — even though most other major religious groups in America support it. Since the group still makes up a sizable part of the Republican electorate, Trump may be hoping to revive his rapidly decreasing poll numbers by winning back the core of his Republican base.
This might be more than a probability, given Trump’s latest attempt to wrest money from people, the “Trump Gold Card“:
According to Trump, the card will signify to the world that you “are tired of a government that bows down to foreigners, refuses to even say the words ‘Radical Islam,’ and leaves our borders wide open!”