Some de­fend him while oth­ers see moral duty to con­demn his stance

The Dallas Morning News - - Front Page - Rachel Zoll,

on Africa, Haiti, di­vide the re­li­gious right.

NEW YORK — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s vul­gar re­marks ques­tion­ing why the U.S. should ad­mit im­mi­grants from Haiti and Africa have spot­lighted the bit­ter di­vide among Amer­i­can evan­gel­i­cals about his pres­i­dency.

While some of his evan­gel­i­cal back­ers ex­pressed sup­port for his lead­er­ship, oth­ers called him racist and said church lead­ers had a moral im­per­a­tive to con­demn him.

“Your pro-life ar­gu­ment rings hol­low if you don’t have an is­sue with this xeno­pho­bic big­otry,” tweeted pas­tor Earon James of Rel­e­vant Life Church in Pace, Fla.

Trump won 80 per­cent of the white evan­gel­i­cal vote in the 2016 elec­tion. But re­cent polls show some weak­en­ing in that sup­port, with 61 per­cent ap­prov­ing of his job per­for­mance, ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter.

Many evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers who de­fended him in the past would not com­ment on his re­marks to a group of sen­a­tors. A few of­fered crit­i­cism. Pas­tor Ron­nie Floyd, a former pres­i­dent of the South­ern Bap­tist Con­ven­tion, said it was “not good” to de­value any per­son.

John­nie Moore, a pub­lic re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive and a leader among Trump’s evan­gel­i­cal ad­vis­ers, said the re­ports of what Trump said were “ab­so­lutely sus­pect and politi­cized.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who at­tended the Oval Of­fice meet­ing Thurs­day, and peo­pled briefed on the con­ver­sa­tion said Trump did make the com­ments as re­ported: As he re­jected a bi­par­ti­san im­mi­gra­tion deal, he ques­tioned why the U.S. would ac­cept more im­mi­grants from Haiti and “[ex­ple­tive] coun­tries” in Africa.

Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, RS.C., who Durbin said ob­jected to Trump’s re­marks at that time, did not dis­pute Durbin’s de­scrip­tion.

Pas­tor Mark Burns from South Carolina re­mained skep­ti­cal but said that if the re­marks were true, Trump was only re­act­ing to poor con­di­tions in Haiti and Africa that were the fault of “lazy gov­ern­ments” there.

The Rev. Robert Jef­fress, pas­tor of First Bap­tist Dal­las, said that apart from the pres­i­dent’s choice of words, “Trump is right on tar­get” in putting the needs of the U.S. above those of other coun­tries.

Yet anger spread among other con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians.

They posted fam­ily pho­tos on so­cial me­dia and proudly noted im­mi­grant rel­a­tives. Bishop Tal­bert Swan of the Church of God in Christ, or COGIC, the coun­try’s largest black Pen­te­costal de­nom­i­na­tion, tweeted a photo of one of his grand­chil­dren born to what Swan said was his “ed­u­cated, hard-work­ing” Haitian-Amer­i­can daugh­ter-in-law.

Swan called Trump’s com­ments “vile, foul-mouthed, racist,” and posted the hash­tag #Im­peachTrump.

The Rev. Tish Har­ri­son War­ren, an author and Angli­can priest in Pitts­burgh, wor­ried about the fall­out for evan­gel­i­cals.

“It hurts evan­ge­lism,” she said of the pres­i­dent’s com­ments. “I sort of ex­pect that from him. But I do ex­pect more from the church and from Chris­tian lead­ers.”


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