Fal­well: Trump’s list of court picks swayed evan­gel­i­cals.

Pres­i­dent-elect out­did Bush among vote bloc

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

No­body would de­scribe Don­ald Trump as more re­li­giously de­vout than Mitt Rom­ney or Ge­orge W. Bush, but the casino-build­ing bil­lion­aire out­per­formed pre­vi­ous GOP pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates with white evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers.

Why? Jerry Fal­well Jr., pres­i­dent of Lib­erty Univer­sity, said Mr. Trump made an enor­mous im­pact with the re­li­gious com­mu­nity in May by tak­ing the un­usual step of re­leas­ing his prospec­tive U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nees ahead of the elec­tion.

“He made it very clear who his Supreme Court picks would be if he was elected,” Mr. Fal­well told “Fox News Sun­day.” “I think that was a big fac­tor.”

Mr. Trump won 80 per­cent of the white evan­gel­i­cal vote, sur­pass­ing Mr. Rom­ney, who took 78 per­cent in 2012, as well as Mr. Bush, who won 78 per­cent in 2004. Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee John McCain drew 74 per­cent in his 2008 bid.

That short list of 11 top ju­rists — five state Supreme Court jus­tices and six fed­eral ap­peals court judges — was ap­plauded by Repub­li­cans and helped ease con­cerns about the first-time can­di­date’s com­mit­ment to con­ser­va­tive prin­ci­ples.

Mr. Trump also said on the cam­paign trail that he would ap­point pro-life jus­tices, a piv­otal is­sue for so­cial con­ser­va­tives who have long ad­vo­cated for the high court to over­turn Roe v. Wade, the land­mark 1973 abor­tion de­ci­sion.

“He told us what Supreme Court jus­tices he would ap­point. That’s about all a pres­i­dent can do on the abor­tion is­sue is to ap­point the right jus­tices,” said Mr. Fal­well, an ad­viser to the Trump cam­paign.

As for Mr. Trump’s bi­b­li­cal bona fides, “he never pre­tended to be a the­olo­gian,” Mr. Fal­well said.

“I said through the cam­paign that we’re not elect­ing a pas­tor in chief,” said Mr. Fal­well, whose fa­ther founded Lib­erty Univer­sity in Lynchburg, Vir­ginia, and was a key fig­ure in the devel­op­ment of the con­tem­po­rary “Re­li­gious Right.” “It’s just like when you have a sick child. You look for the best doc­tor for that child. You don’t look for the doc­tor that shares your faith or your the­ol­ogy.”

Mr. Fal­well also cited the pres­i­dent-elect’s call for the re­peal of the so-called John­son Amend­ment, which pro­hibits non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing churches, from sup­port­ing spe­cific can­di­dates for of­fice.

The 1954 pro­vi­sion pushed by then-Sen. Lyn­don B. John­son “has been used by the government to si­lence con­ser­va­tives and pas­tors,” Mr. Fal­well said.

“And so all those things — they just re­sounded with evan­gel­i­cals and with Chris­tians,” said Mr. Fal­well, ad­ding that Mr. Trump’s vic­tory has brought “a new hope, an op­ti­mism.”

Mr. Trump’s can­di­dacy cre­ated some­thing of a di­vide among Chris­tian lead­ers, but the elec­tion out­come showed that the rift had lit­tle ef­fect on rank-and-file evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers.

An­other rea­son for Mr. Trump’s strong show­ing: the evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­nity’s dis­like of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton. A Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC News poll taken a month be­fore the Nov. 8 elec­tion found 70 per­cent of white evan­gel­i­cals held an un­fa­vor­able view of Mrs. Clin­ton.

Mr. Trump is ex­pected to make an im­me­di­ate im­pact on the high court by nom­i­nat­ing a jurist to fill the va­cancy left by the Feb. 13 death of Supreme Court Jus­tice An­tonin Scalia.

“I said through the cam­paign that we’re not elect­ing a pas­tor in chief. It’s just like when you have a sick child. You look for the best doc­tor for that child. You don’t look for the doc­tor that shares your faith or your the­ol­ogy.”

— Jerry Fal­well Jr., Lib­erty Univer­sity pres­i­dent

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