THE Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, is courting the Christian Right, inviting 1000 Evangelicals to a meeting, and announcing an Evangelical advisory board made up of some of the most prominent Evangelicals in the United States.
None of the 25 members of the board, however, was asked to endorse Mr Trump, and some have been openly critical of him in the past, particularly of his three divorces and extra-marital affairs.
At the meeting on Tuesday, in New York, he was given a standing ovation by hundreds of Christian conservatives, as he pledged to appoint anti-abortion Supreme Court judges and end a decades-old ban on Churches’ making explicit political endorsements. He told them: “You talk about religious liberty and religious freedom; you don’t have any religious freedom if you think about it.”
Among the group were Franklin Graham, chief executive of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Dr James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family.
Other senior members of the Christian Right were absent, however. Michael Farris, a lawyer, pastor, and prominent advocate of home schooling, said that the meeting between Mr Trump and Evangelicals was “a day of mourning”. He said that he was told by the candidate’s representative that he was not invited, as he had been “too vocal in his anti-Trump views”.
On his Facebook page, Mr Farris posted: “This meeting marks the end of the Christian Right. The premise of the meeting in 1980 was that only candidates that reflected a biblical worldview and good character would gain our support.
“Today, a candidate whose worldview is greed and whose god is his appetites (Philippians 3) is being tacitly endorsed by this throng.
“They are saying we are Republicans no matter what the candidate believes and no matter how vile and unrepentant his character.
“They are not a phalanx of God’s prophets confronting a wicked leader, this is a parade of elephants.
“In 1980 I believed that Christians could dramatically influence politics. Today, we see politics fully influencing a thousand Christian leaders.”
He also posted a photo from a meeting between Mr Trump and Jerry Falwell Junior, the president of the Evangelical Liberty University, and Mrs Falwell, posing in front of a framed Playboy magazine cover.
The Roman Catholic conservative Robert George, former chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and a professor at Princeton University, declined to attend the meeting, saying that while he may think even lower of the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, he fears that Mr Trump will “in the end, bring disgrace upon those individuals and organizations who publicly embrace him.
“For those of us who believe in limited government, the rule of law, flourishing institutions of civil society and traditional Judeo-Christian moral principles, and who believe that our leaders must be persons of integrity and good character, this election is presenting a horrible choice. May God help us.”