Donald Trump was held up as the only choice for evangelical voters this November at a high-profile conference where faith leaders gave the presumptive Republican nominee their stamp of approval.
Trump received a nearly minute-long standing ovation at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington on Friday and was presented to the audience as the principled choice for Christian voters in the general election.
Evangelical leader Ralph Reed, the chairman of Faith & Freedom and a leading political figure on the Christian right for decades, delivered a biblically minded rationale for voting Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Describing Trump as a “good friend,” Reed confronted head on the faith community’s doubts about Trump’s personal morality, telling the audience that they shouldn’t be searching for perfection in their political leaders.
Reed said there’s only one example of perfection in human history “and that’s Jesus Christ.”
“Unlike a lot of our friends on the other side, we’re not looking for a political Messiah,” Reed said. “Because we already have a Messiah.”
Reed said evangelical voters have an obligation not to stay home this November and rejected the argument by some values voters that they wouldn’t vote because they see Clinton and Trump as a choice between two evils.
Reed said that was demonstrably untrue because of Trump’s positions on abortion, gay marriage and the list he released of socially conservative Supreme Court nominees.
Clinton, Reed added, supports “abortion on demand for any reason at all or for no reason at all.” He then listed what he said were her unacceptable views on gay marriage and other issues of importance to the Christian right.
“That’s what’s on the ballot and we cannot escape the choice that’s before us,” Reed said.
He added, in an apparent reference to Trump, that they serve an Almighty God who “uses imperfect people to achieve his perfect will.”
While Trump won a plurality of evangelical voters during the GOP primaries, he needs millions more to turn out for him in the general election.
Some social conservatives — including a number who voted for Ted Cruz over Trump in the primaries — still cannot bring themselves to support a candidate who curses in public and has made derogatory remarks about women.
Trump tried to live up to Reed’s billing in his speech Friday.
It was a lower key, humbler Trump at the Omni Shoreham hotel. He used a teleprompter for the speech and delivered scripted lines that sounded like a conventional politician.
“Together, friends, we will chart a new optimistic course for America,” Trump said.
“We will restore faith to its proper mantle in society.”
Trump even tried to show grace toward Code Pink protesters who interrupted his speech.
As the women were escorted out by security, shouting about how terrible they thought Trump’s refugee policies were, the real estate tycoon didn’t say he wished he could punch them in the face, as he did about protesters during the primary season.
Instead, Trump told the crowd that the protesters were expressing their rights of “freedom of speech.”
When the protestors were kicked out, audience members chanted “Trump! Trump! Trump!” and “USA! USA! USA!”
One man chanted, “Build that wall! Build that wall!”
And even Trump’s proposed wall got its evangelical stamp of approval on Friday.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is Trump’s top advocate in the U.S. Senate, invoked the wall around Jerusalem as the reason why Trump’s wall along the southern border with Mexico would work.
Sessions gave a New Testament reason for his newfound opposition to international trade deals, a position pushed hard by Trump. He said that trade deals hurt the least among us.
“Jesus talked about the poor,” Sessions said.