Meet the Evangelicals Who Hate Donald Trump
Donald Trump lost the evangelical vote to Ted Cruz in Iowa Monday night, shattering the facade that the loud-mouthed, thrice-married casino owner who’s joked about dating his own daughter could own the legacy of the Moral Majority.
Cruz won 34 percent of the evangelical vote in Iowa to Trump’s 22 percent, according to entrance polls, showing that while Trump and some of the pre-caucus polls may have overstated his potential share of the evangelical vote, his final tally was not inconsequential. Anti-Trump evangelicals, aware the race for the GOP nomination is far from over, are not retreating from their efforts to paint him as a candidate hostile to their interests.
Evangelicals closely allied with the Christian right’s political activism are dismayed by Trump’s bombast, his lack of biblical literacy and his belated and disingenuous efforts to pander to their concerns, such as abortion and Supreme Court appointments. To them, a possible Trump nomination would cause “hundreds of thousands and maybe millions literally having a crisis of conscience” in choosing whether to vote for Trump or the Democratic nominee, says John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, an affiliate of Focus on the Family.
“I’m mainly concerned about issues and the fortunes of the issues I care about most: the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage and religious liberty,” says Denny Burk, a prominent Southern Baptist who teaches at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. “[Trump’s] candidacy seems to be inimical to those things.”
The prospect of a Trump nomination alarms national anti-choice groups as well. Just before the Iowa Caucuses, 12 conservative, anti-choice women wrote an open letter to Iowans, highlighting Trump’s lack of commitment to banning abortion, or to appointing Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade. “America will only be a great nation when we have leaders of strong character who will defend both unborn children and the dignity of women. We cannot trust Donald Trump to do either,” the letter read. Signers included stalwarts of the Christian right, including Beverly LaHaye, who founded Concerned Women for America, one of the first religious right activist organizations targeting women, in 1979, and Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the influential anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List.
Ruth Malhotra, a 31-year-old former political activist for conservative causes, tells Rolling Stone evangelicals supporting Trump “think they’d be able to influence him if he’s elected.” But, she says, “they’ve been duped” — Trump has “done nothing to advance issues important to evangelicals.”
“He does not have the conservative track record, and I don’t trust him,” she says.
But not all evangelicals are exclusively concerned with how Trump lines up with religious right political litmus tests; some are more focused on the ways Trump has left an imprint on the primary race that both diverges from their Christian values and points the GOP in a direction at odds with that of many younger evangelicals. Though they often share religious right stances on abortion and marriage, these evangelicals are also in favor of immigration reform, and they’re horrified by Trump’s cavalier invective against Mexican immigrants and Muslims.