President Donald Trump launched his “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition Friday night, telling hundreds gathered at one of the country’s largest Hispanic megachurches that evangelical support for his re-election will be even greater than it was for his election campaign in 2016.
Trump gave a lengthy speech at El Ray Jesus Church in Miami at a much-anticipated rally that was also attended by leading conservative evangelical figures such as James Dobson, Cissie Graham Lynch, Jack Graham, Alveda King, and Paula White.
The event and coalition were announced one day after a Christianity Today editorial last month denounced the president and called for his resignation. That editorial quickly put the political divisions within evangelicalism in the national spotlight and was followed by a letter from nearly 200 evangelical leaders denouncing both CT and its outgoing editor Mark Galli.
“In 2016, evangelical Christians went out and they worked so hard and they produced numbers like they have never produced before,” Trump told the crowd. “Based on what Paula told me and Cissie told me and everybody told me, we are going to blow those numbers away in 2020.”
Exit polling suggests that 76 percent of self-identified white evangelicals voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Since his election, Trump said he has been fighting for evangelicals and has “achieved results nobody thought was possible.”
Many conservative evangelicals have strongly supported a number of Trump’s policies and actions relating to issues of abortion, religious freedom, judicial appointments, LGBT issues, Israel, and criminal justice reform.
“Evangelicals and Christians of every denomination and believers of every faith have never had a greater champion … in the White House than you have right now,” Trump declared. “I am not saying that in any other way other than just look at the record. Together, we are not only defending our constitutional rights, but we are also defending religion itself, which is under siege.”
Trump told cheering supporters that although his administration is “winning,” the country cannot let “one of our radical left friends” take office.
“Because everything we have done will be gone in short order,” he asserted. “It will be taken away pretty quickly. It’s a powerful position.”
He called for faith and family to be renewed as the “center of American life” in order for America to thrive.
“There are those who say these sacred beliefs are outdated. But we know they are just the opposite,” Trump stressed. “Our traditions and our values are timeless and immortal. [The political left] don’t know what they are missing. Our faith is needed now more than ever.”
He stressed that while some fads come and go, it is an “eternal truth” that faith and family lead to “stability, happiness, and prosperity of nations.”
“Yet as we speak, every Democrat candidate running for president is trying to punish religious believers and silence our churches and our pastors,” Trump contended. “Our opponents want to shut out God from the public square so they can impose their extreme anti-religious and socialist agenda on America.”
However, Trump vowed that he is not only going to win re-election, but Republicans will also take back the U.S. House and maintain control of the U.S. Senate.
“This election is about the survival of our nation,” he said. “With your help, your prayers and tireless effort to mobilize Christian communities across our land, on Nov. 3, 2020, … we are going to win another monumental victory for faith and family, God and country, flag and freedom.”
“I really do believe we have God on our side,” he added. “There would have been no other way we could have won [in 2016], right? People said, ‘You don’t have the media, you have so many things against you.’ But we win. So it has to be something.”
Also speaking at the event was Cissie Graham Lynch, the granddaughter of famed evangelist and Christianity Today founder, Billy Graham. She is also the daughter of evangelist and Trump supporter Franklin Graham.
“Mr. President, although you live in a very elegant White House, you are our neighbor,” she told Trump. “We will love you through this and we will help you for 2020 so you can keep fighting for us because you are our neighbor and we love you.”
The coalition launch was praised by Hispanic evangelical leader Samuel Rodriguez, leader of the Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Rodriguez believes Trump might attract even more Hispanic support in 2020.
In 2016, exit polls showed that Trump garnered about 28 percent of the Hispanic vote.
“It is not only logical but arguably politically brilliant that the president will kick off 2020 with the launch of his re-election’s evangelical outreach at a Latino megachurch in the state of Florida,” Rodriguez said in a statement.
“Latino evangelicals represent a constituency that is pro-life, supportive of religious liberty and focused on biblical justice. The unprecedented hard left turn by the Democratic Party, abandoning the Obama strategy of 2008, will prompt more Latino evangelicals to support President Trump in 2020.”
Rodriguez stressed that he does not foresee Latino evangelicals “sacrificing core values” by supporting the Democratic agenda that affirms abortion in the third trimester, attacks on religious liberty and “espouses a socialistic worldview.”
During his speech, Trump said the “extreme left” is trying to “replace religion with the government” and “replace God with socialism.”
Trump vowed that under his watch, America will not become a socialist country. His remarks received resounding applause from the crowd.
At the beginning of his remarks, Trump recognized and gave thanks to a number of evangelical figures in the audience such as the Grahams, the Dobsons, Robert Jeffress and El Ray Jesus Church pastor Guillermo Maldonado.
Before Trump spoke, he was prayed over on stage by a group of leaders, including White, King, Cissie Graham Lynch, Jack Graham and Jentzen Franklin.
"Lord, I thank you that America didn't need a preacher in the Oval Office," Franklin prayed. "It did not need a professional politician in the Oval Office. But it needed a fighter and a champion for freedom. Lord, that is exactly what we have."