Trump Would Disrupt The Broken System In Washington, Ralph Reed Says
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In the course of his very public life, Donald Trump has had three wives, he's admitted to adultery and he boasts a fortune built on gambling in casinos. So one of the many surprises this election year has been the support Donald Trump has received from conservative evangelical voters in the primaries. To build on that support, Donald Trump met with hundreds of evangelical leaders in Manhattan yesterday. And he suggested that they not pray for the country's current leadership.
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DONALD TRUMP: We can't be again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes.
GREENE: Ralph Reed is a veteran activist in the Christian right and as of yesterday, playing an advisory role to Donald Trump. He joins us on the line from our New York studio. Mr. Reed, welcome back to the program.
RALPH REED: Thanks so much, David. Good to be with you.
GREENE: Well, thanks for coming on. You were in that room when Donald Trump said that leaders in this country are selling Christianity down the tubes. What do you think he's talking about?
REED: Well, I think he was specifically referring in that context to some of the IRS harassment of various churches and ministries and specifically the sort of gag rule that prevents a church from expressing anything in the civic arena at risk of losing its tax-exempt status. He was also talking about the values of the sanctity of life and the centrality of marriage and family and religious freedom and how many of those things are under assault.
And, you know, in the meeting that I was in, which was of the advisory group, he didn't say don't pray for your leaders. He said, you know, pray but you need to act. You need change, and this is your opportunity to see real change come to Washington. I believe that, should Donald Trump be elected, he will disrupt the broken system in Washington, D.C., in a way that Hillary Clinton won't. And I think that message is likely to resonate, David, very powerfully in the faith community.
GREENE: You brought some specific issues there. I mean, the accusation from you and others that the IRS has targeted religious organizations, you know - you know, some other issues that you seem to agree with Donald Trump on. I want to talk sort of broadly. I mean, you helped to build conservative Christians into a real political force back in the 1980s. You were known for that.
A lot of issues have been very important to you - abortion, the decline of traditional families. You know, Donald Trump not consistent on abortion positions, his personal life - I mean, he's been very honest about them. What - in what way, given those things, does he speak for evangelicals?
REED: Well, I wouldn't agree, David, about the first part, which is his position on the sanctity of life. And we don't have time in this format for me to go into all the details of my interactions with him, but he's actually been a friend for about seven years. And we became friends because I saw him on TV talking about the abortion issue in a way that I thought was compelling and transparent and based on his deep moral conviction.
And by the way he's talked about this in public, that he had a friend who was considering ending the life of their unborn child. It was a very difficult decision, clearly an emotionally wrenching decision, decided to keep the child. The child does not know this but Mr. Trump does. And in watching this child grow up to be a spectacular person, it really changed his heart. And he realized hey, we're missing out on a lot of wonderful people. So I...
GREENE: You're convinced that he is pro-life? I mean, that...
REED: Yeah. I have found him to be actually very committed on this.
REED: In terms of his own personal spiritual journey, I think that one of - this is a teachable moment about the role of evangelicals in our public life. There's a myth out there that they're driven primarily by identity politics. That is to say, if you don't swear to the faith confession that I do and you haven't lived your life exactly the way I do that I won't support you.
That's just simply not true. They have supported candidates who had a different theology than them, including theologies they considered to be anathema, like Mitt Romney's Mormonism, for example. And they voted 78 percent for Romney so...
GREENE: We only have a little bit of time left.
GREENE: If there's a voter out there who shares many of the values you do...
GREENE: ...And they know about Donald Trump's personal life and they really have concerns about his character. And they say for these reasons, I just can't support him. What advice would you give a voter like that?
REED: Well, I would tell them how I came to change my view of him, OK? And I had that view at one time. Number one, I know his children. And you don't raise children who are this phenomenal if you're a person of bad moral character. Secondly, you don't accomplish what he has accomplished in New York City and around the world by not judging people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.
REED: He wants to bring the country together. And I think if he gets a chance to demonstrate that and share that with the American people, I think they'll change their view, too.
GREENE: All right, Ralph Reed is the head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Mr. Reed, thanks as always.
REED: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.