Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Ralph Reed Discuss Takeaways From Trump's Meeting With Evangelicals

(Screengrab: YouTube/Fox News)Franklin Graham (center-left), Ralph Reed (center-right) and Jerry Falwell Jr.(right) talk with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren (left) about their thoughts after meeting with Donald Trump and as many as 900 evangelical leaders in New York City on June 21, 2016.

Evangelist Franklin Graham, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. and leading conservative activist Ralph Reed have offered their thoughts on Donald Trump's meeting with over 900 Evangelical leaders in New York City on Tuesday.

As many are wondering what, if anything, will come out of the much anticipated "conversation" between Trump and America's leading evangelical minds, Graham, Falwell and Reed all participated in a brief panel discussion with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren after the meeting on Tuesday to discuss what they heard from the billionaire real estate mogul.

As many evangelical conservatives have been hesitant to support the presumptive Republican nominee, Graham, the president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, has been adamant that he will not endorse any presidential candidate in this election cycle and he was the only participant on the Fox News panel who is not a member of Trump's new evangelical executive advisory board.

"I was asked to come to a meeting and hear Donald Trump and I am glad I did," Graham said, adding that he has encouraged Christians throughout the country to get active in the political process during his 2016 "Decision America" tour.

Considering Trump tackled questions about religious freedom, the Supreme Court and other concerns weighing on the heart of many evangelical conservatives, Graham contended that Trump "answered" those concerns.

"I promised people that I won't get involved in endorsing anyone. I was invited to hear him and I am glad I did because I think he answered everyone's questions," Graham added. "People had good concerns, honest concerns and I think Donald Trump answered those today."

Reed, the president of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, remained neutral throughout the primary election and refrained from issuing any endorsement.

Reed, who disclosed that he has been friends with Trump for seven years, told Van Susteren that there were two particular remarks that Trump made in the meeting that could likely make a difference for evangelical leaders still on the fence.

"There were two things that really made a difference to these leaders today that still needed to hear some things and have some concerns addressed," Reed explained.

The first thing, Reed said, was that Trump promised to end a longstanding ban on church politicking. As the 1954 Johnson Amendment puts the tax-exempt status of churches and other religious nonprofits at risk if they engage in political activities or endorse a political candidate, Reed said that Trump vowed to put an end to the "internal revenue code's death penalty and strict prohibition on churches being involved in civic activities."

"Right now, if a church or Liberty University or a major ministry like Franklin's or somebody else's spends one dime making a statement in the civic arena, they can have their entire tax exempt status revoked," Reed said. "Many major ministries have been subject to harassment by the IRS, to invasive audits, to ultimately harassment. He said that he would repeal that prohibition and protect with a standard protected freedom of speech."

The second point that Trump made that Reed said struck a chord with many in attendance was the vow to appoint only pro-life Supreme Court justices.

"This is the first time in modern American history that we have gone into a presidential election with a vacancy on the Supreme Court on a court that is divided and split right down the middle — four liberals and four conservatives," Reed added. "It isn't just the presidency on the line, it is the entire federal judiciary. [Trump] has released a list of 11 names, who are outstanding people, who will decide on what we care about from life to religious freedom to Obamacare, down the line. I think that is very important to conservative voters of faith."

Falwell, who endorsed Trump back in January and became one of Trump's biggest evangelical endorsers throughout the primary elections, said that Trump displayed "a deeper understanding than I have ever seen before on issues that are important to conservatives and to Christians."

"I was very impressed. He was very presidential," Falwell said. "He talked a lot about his Supreme Court nominees. He talked a lot about how they are going to be pro-life. He talked about support for the nation of Israel. He was strong on that issue. That was something that was very important for the group in that room. He also talked about so many other issues that are so important."

Falwell also said that Trump participated in the conversation for much longer than he probably intended.

"I was very impressed and I was honored to introduce him and I tried to point out to the crowd that we have such a simple choice this election," Falwell said.

As far as attracting evangelical support in the general election goes, Reed pointed out that Trump had success in earning the evangelical vote in many of the primary elections earlier this year even though there were a number of qualified candidates vying for the evangelical vote.

"If you look at all the exit polls and all the aggregate thereof in the 27 states for which we have them, [Trump] won 39 percent of the evangelical vote to Ted Cruz's 33 and Marco Rubio's 15," Reed said. "This was in a field of 17 people that included two sons of preachers — Ted Cruz and Scott Walker — a former preacher and successful governor Mike Huckabee. This was a very strong and deep field and I think he has really connected with them."

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