By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
NEW YORK CITY – Donald Trump displayed a tremendous amount of humility while coming across as pro-life, pro-Israel and pro-traditional marriage during a meeting today with more than 1,000 social conservatives, one Louisiana Baptist pastor who attended told the Baptist Message.
“He was the most humble I have seen him,” said Louisiana Baptist Convention President Gevan Spinney. “He was responding rather than reacting. When [former Gov.] Mike Huckabee led the discussion time with Trump, he seemed really humble just to be there.”
Spinney, who is pastor of First Baptist Church in Haughton, said while Trump did reference time spent attending Sunday school as a child he did not come across as overtly religious.
“You try to look for things he said to give you hope he’s a believer but he didn’t give us any indication he was,” he said.
Spinney said Trump mentioned he potentially could name between three and five Supreme Court appointees as president and that Trump emphasized he leaned pro-life and emphasized religious freedom was a main concern of his.
“He said he was tired of Christians being attacked in courts,” Spinney said. “He made a statement that when he became president he was going to protect the rights of believers to be able to express themselves.”
Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bossier City, said the room was full with an atmosphere of unity regarding issues they value – religious liberty, sanctity of human life and more.
He said Trump answered all questions posed to him and when asked stayed well beyond the scheduled 30 minutes allotted for his part of a day of discussions among conservative Christians that ran from 8:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. in New York City.
“Did he satisfy every concern?” Jurkovich asked and answered, “Probably not. But he was very willing to meet, in fact, met with several key leaders for dialogue even prior to our main meeting.
“I was very encouraged and I believe many others were as well,” he continued. “The main thing is the fact that evangelicals have got to vote!”
Louisiana State Rep. Mike Johnson, a member of Jurkovich’s church, called the gathering of evangelical leaders a historic occasion.
“I think Mr. Trump did well before that audience and made a number of commitments that we wanted and needed to hear,” said Johnson, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. “For example, he directly addressed his strong support for religious liberty, and the appointment of conservative and pro-life judges to the federal courts. I think he solidified the support of many who were still on the fence. As Mike Huckabee said, ‘This is not a pastor search committee. We are not hiring a pastor, but a president.’”
In all, Trump spoke for about an hour.
Among the hundreds of evangelicals who attended were newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines as well as several past Southern Baptist Convention presidents such as Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham. Others included actor Kirk Cameron, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Samaritan’s Purse CEO Franklin Graham, former Focus on the Family President James Dobson, evangelist Jay Strack and First Liberty Institute President Kelly Shackelford.
Though the meeting was closed to the media, participants took to social media to provide updates.
Bishop E.W. Jackson, head pastor at Exodus Faith Ministries in Chesapeake, Va., posted video of another meeting Trump had with others earlier in the day on his Twitter account.
“You can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that — pray for everyone,” Trump said in the video. “But what you really have to do is you have to pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.
“And we can’t be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders, because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling evangelicals down the tubes,” Trump said, “and it’s a very, very bad thing that’s happening.”
A few people were chosen to ask Trump a question, including Floyd and Shackelford.
In a press release by First Liberty Institute, Shackelford said he asked Trump about his potential appointments to the Supreme Court, as well as other judicial seats across the United States. He said he also raised the issue of religious liberty.
“I appreciated how, very early in the meeting, Mr. Trump brought up First Liberty’s client, Coach Joe Kennedy, and expressed his concern that a high school football coach would be fired for praying after a game. Mr. Trump said attacks on faith like this need to stop and I agree,” he said. “During the conversation, I asked Mr. Trump to discuss his future judicial appointments and to explain what he would do to ensure that religious liberty is protected for people of faith, which includes people like Coach Kennedy. Mr. Trump noted that the courts will decide these types of cases and said he plans to release a list of four to five more judicial candidates he would consider appointing. I look forward to seeing his list and hope it will contain judicial nominees who would be devoted to protecting our constitutional right of religious liberty.”
“Although there is still more to learn about where Mr. Trump stands on some of the top religious freedom cases in America, like the Little Sisters of the Poor and military chaplains, I think today was a good start and I look forward to continuing the conversation,” said Shackelford. “I will do all I can to ensure that our next president, whoever it may be, will protect the rights of all Americans to practice their faith freely.”
United In Purpose cooperated with My Faith Votes to organize many aspects of the meeting.
The My Faith Votes Facebook page described the purpose of the meeting as an opportunity to “facilitate a conversation to allow faith leaders to better understand Mr. Trump as a person, his position on important issues and his vision for America’s future, while also enabling him to better appreciate matters of importance to the faith community. In and through this meeting, we seek the presence and unity of the Holy Spirit. And so, we want to see this event covered in prayer.”
Other partners for the event included Americans United for Life, the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches, CatholicVote.org., the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Liberty University, Regent University, Tea Party Express, The Frederick Douglas Foundation, Unity Coalition for Israel and the Kitchen Cabinet.