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Trump claims Christianity under threat in US in pitch to evangelical voters

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Donald Trump warned that Christianity in America would be left “in tatters” if Joe Biden were re-elected for a second term as he called on Saturday for evangelicals to vote for him in record numbers.

Speaking at a conference of influential evangelical leaders in Washington, the Republican former president accused the “radical left” of “silencing” Christians, endorsed the display of the Ten Commandments in public schools and at one point said he had “wounds” all over his body from political persecution.

“If I took this shirt off, you would see a beautiful, beautiful person. But you would see wounds all over, all over me,” Trump said. “I have taken a lot of wounds, I can tell you. More than I suspect any president ever.”

Trump was cheered by the crowd of more than a thousand self-described evangelical Christians at the annual “Road to Majority” conference organised by the influential Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Ralph Reed, the group’s founder and chair, introduced Trump as a “dear friend” and a “tireless, indefatigable champion of faith and freedom and this great country”.

Reed alluded to critics’ initial scepticism of Trump’s commitment to evangelical voters, saying: “They told us we couldn’t trust him. They told us he wouldn’t keep his word. But as president of the United States, he kept every single promise he made to us.”

Trump took to the stage in Washington to a recording of his campaign anthem, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA”. Many in the crowd wore red “Make America Great Again” caps and waved small American flags, while others held up their hands as if to pray.

When he first ran for president in 2016, Trump, a brash former casino owner who has been married three times and once famously struggled to name his favourite Bible verse, was not the first choice for many evangelical voters. But he earned plaudits for his commitment to appointing conservative judges, including the three Supreme Court justices who helped to overturn Roe vs Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion, in 2022.

Trump again took credit for the ruling being overturned on Saturday, but defended his decision not to endorse a national abortion ban that has been called for by many anti-abortion advocates and evangelical leaders. Trump has instead argued that the reversal of Roe means individual states should be left to set their own abortion restrictions, in a move that has been seen in part as a reaction to concerns that stricter abortion laws have hurt Republicans and helped Democrats at the ballot box.

“It is now up to the will of the people in each state. Some states will be more conservative, other states will be more liberal . . . every voter has to go with your heart, and do what is right, but we also have to get elected, because we have a lot of other things.”

Today, white evangelical Christians make up a key constituency of Trump’s base of support. A Pew survey conducted earlier this year found around four in five white evangelical Protestant voters said they would vote for Trump if the election were held today. Trump also drew strong support from white non-evangelical Protestants, and white Catholics, with 57 per cent and 61 per cent of both groups, respectively, saying they intended to vote for Trump.

Trump’s appearance on Saturday aimed to get out that vote: “Christians go to church but they don’t vote that much. Do you know the power you would have if you would vote? So you have got to get out and vote, just this time. ”

“I don’t care, in four years, you don’t have to vote, OK? In four years, don’t vote, I don’t care,” he added.

As former president, Trump is only eligible to complete one additional term.

“Christians cannot afford to sit on the sidelines,” Trump added. “If Joe Biden gets back in, Christianity will not be safe in a nation with no borders, no laws, no freedom, no future . . . your religion certainly will be, I think, in tatters, if you want to know the truth.”

“Our allegiance is . . . to our country and our belief system and our creator,” Trump added, prompting a shout of “Amen!” from the crowd. “We do not answer to the bureaucrats in Washington. We answer to God in heaven.”

A Biden campaign spokesperson called Trump’s speech “incoherent” and “unhinged,” adding it “showed voters in his own words that he is a threat to our freedoms and is too dangerous to be let anywhere near the White House again.”

But conference attendees were largely enthusiastic about the former president, describing Trump as a man of faith who they were confident would escape punishment for his alleged crimes and be elected to another term in the White House in November.

“I can see how God has been protecting him,” said Alfonso Talavera, a 59-year-old real estate agent from Maryland.

“Everything that [Trump] has been going through, it is a lot . . . he is a person that God is protecting. He is a faithful person. When he speaks, he goes to the gospel . . . and he asks for prayers as well.”

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