Democrat-aligned faith leaders question Trump’s effort to rally evangelical voters

By: - January 3, 2020 12:33 pm

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a homecoming campaign rally on November 26, 2019 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

With the president scheduled to hold an “Evangelicals for Trump” rally at a Miami-Dade County church this evening, Democrat-aligned faith leaders accused Donald Trump of “co-opting” religious leaders to propel his re-election campaign.

Chris King, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018 and a self-described evangelical Christian, said Trump’s hardline immigration policies, his “extraordinary effort to destroy the (federal) Affordable Care Act” and his economic policies that have favored the wealthy are out of step with faith-based efforts to help the poor and disadvantaged.

“When he goes to the church today in Miami, really, with the platform of the last couple of years of bullying and exploiting people of faith, I think he shows a disdain for believers all across the country who want to see a president who is genuinely, authentically trying to live out the values of the Gospel,” King said in a phone conference arranged by the Florida Democratic Party on Friday.

King pointed to the recent editorial in the Christianity Today magazine, calling for Trump’s removal from office.

In a Dec. 20 tweet, Trump denounced the criticism as coming from a “far-left” publication that would rather support a Democratic presidential candidate “who wants to take your religion & your guns.”

“No president has done more for the evangelical community, and it’s not even close,” Trump tweeted.

But King said “the conscience of the nation, who we are as a country, what our values are about, I think, is at risk” in this year’s presidential election.

“I think the folks that are standing up to Donald Trump from a faith perspective believe that faith is not something that is about getting more power,” King said. “But it is about love. It’s about giving back. It’s about serving others. It’s not about propping up bullies. It’s really about tending to the wounds of those who are bullied.”

The Democrats also released a letter signed by a dozen pastors and other faith leaders in Florida criticizing Trump’s behavior and policies in contrast to traditional religious values.

“You ordered your administration to separate immigrant families and detain children in prison-like centers. You used vulgar language to describe countries in Africa. You demean, mock, and sometimes threaten your political rivals,” the letter said.

“A person who cannot stay true to their values has no place in the Oval Office and you, sir, do not have the moral fortitude to deserve our support,” the letter said.

Trump, who is spending the holiday season at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, is scheduled to hold his political rally this evening at the Ministerio International El Rey Jesus, a 7,000-seat church in West Kendall.

The Miami Herald reported that Guillermo Maldonado, the head pastor at the church and a Trump supporter, urged parishioners to attend the rally and said members of the congregation who were undocumented immigrants need not fear deportation.

“You don’t have to be a citizen,” Maldonado said, according to The Miami Herald.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.