Yesterday, Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, went on CNN to say that Donald Trump’s attacks on the core American value of religious liberty must be opposed by evangelicals:
JOHN BERMAN: And, Russell, you are an evangelical, and you disagree with a lot of the tenets of Islam, to say the least, yet, you say that evangelicals must support religious freedom for the Muslims and denounce Donald Trump. Explain.
RUSSELL D. MOORE, PRESIDENT, SOUTHERN BAPTIST ETHICS & LIBERTY COMMISSION: Yes. Religious freedom is not just for us, but everyone. If you had told me that we were talking about banning people from the United States because of the religious faith, and un-violent, law abiding people, and I would have thought that it was a science fiction movie released for Christmas time. I would not assume we were talking about the presidential race for the office held by the leaders such as Washington and Lincoln. And it is disturbing. What is important to recognize that the freedom of religious is not a government grant. Donald Trump did not give it to us, and he can’t take it away. God gave us freedom of religion and conscious. Sometimes Donald Trump may get them confused, but we never should. He is exploiting a horrific time of war to bring up things that are not only at odds with the constitutional freedoms, but also with the God-given rights.
BERMAN: And, Russell, I want to ask you, given what you are saying and what Zak says, how do you explain then Trump’s appeal in states like Iowa with a large evangelical voting base, and he is not leading among the evangelicals there, but he is doing very, very well.
MOORE: Well, some people who are claiming to be evangelical and they have not been to a church foyer since they were in Vacation Bible School, and I don’t put a lot of stock in that identification. But I do think —
BERMAN: What about the idea there are in the country, whether affiliation or not religiously, who do support what Donald Trump is saying?
MOORE: Well, certainly, certainly. I think they do, because he is giving an appearance of strength and toughness over a president who seems not the know what to do. We have a crisis in the Middle East, a refugee system of people who are filing out of the Middle East under the most repressive terror ever imaginable, and ancient minority communities, including Christians and Yazidis and others, at the point of extinction, and the threat of terror over the homeland, and there is a weak response from the U.S. Donald Trump gives the illusion of winning. And I will fix it all, and you just need to listen to me, then I’ll fix it to for you, just hand over your freedoms. That is a bad bargain. What we need is to have somebody deal with the repressive regimes and structures in the Middle East, and protect the homeland from terror, and do it within the framework of the U.S. Constitution.
Moore is an ordained Southern Baptist minister and a highly influential theologian. Will evangelicals in Iowa and in the Southern primaries listen?
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.