Texas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, who was one of the first Evangelical leaders to publicly support former President Donald Trump and attend his rallies during the 2016 primary election, says he plans to stay neutral during the race for the 2024 GOP nomination.
"The Republican Party is headed toward a civil war that I have no desire or need to be part of," Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Dallas, told Newsweek.
Jeffress, 66, said his priority is pastoring his church and "preaching God's word to millions of people each week on our television and radio broadcasts."
Jeffress' comments follow Trump's announcement last Tuesday that he plans to run for president again in 2024. While Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, he lost to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.
If Trump becomes the Republican nominee in 2024, Jeffress said he will "happily support him."
Days after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, Jeffress said he "absolutely" did not regret supporting Trump.
"When reporter asked if I regretted my support I said 'Absolutely not! Most pro-life and religious liberty President and VP in history!'" Jeffress tweeted at the time.
He condemned the far-right protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol, calling them "despicable" and "wrong."
"What the angry mob did by storming into the Capitol was not only a crime, it was a sin against God," Jeffress wrote in an op-ed.
"Every American can assemble to protest. This is a God-given right acknowledged and protected by the First Amendment. Peaceful protest is a vital part of our political tradition, and it has long served us well."
Exit polling has shown that many Republicans may be looking for a new candidate to support in 2024 as Trump continues to face scrutiny for his handling of the Jan. 6 riot. He's also been subpoenaed by the House of Representatives select committee investigating the riot.
Polling data published last week by the conservative organization Club for Growth found that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would beat Trump in one-on-one matchups in four critical primary states: Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida and Georgia.
In a survey conducted by YouGov from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11, 42% of Republican primary voters want DeSantis to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024, compared to the 35% who prefer Trump.
In an interview that aired last week on ABC News, former Vice President Mike Pence suggested that there would be better presidential candidates to choose from than his former running mate.
"The people of this country actually get along pretty well once you get out of politics, and I think they want to see their national leaders reflect that same compassion for the generosity of spirit," Pence said, saying "we'll have better choices in the future."
A few days before Biden entered the White House, Jeffress warned his congregation there might be "increasing persecution" during the Biden administration. He urged Christians to "be prepared" for a possible "restrain on our ability" to teach God's word "without consequence."
"You see that all around you — whether it's regarding gender fluidity, same-sex marriage, unrestricted abortion. All of these things are the result of a society that has thrown off God's restraints," he said.
Though the Church will be forced to navigate "choppy waters" in the coming years, God is in control — "and no election can change that," Jeffress reminded his congregation.
"There was no panic in Heaven over the election," he asserted. "There is nothing that happens outside the sovereign plan of God."
In November 2020, Jeffress wrote an op-ed for Fox News stating no matter who is in office, the Bible commands Christians to "submit and pray" to government leaders even if they are not "our preferred candidate."