More than 1,000 conservative Christian leaders convened today for a Q&A with presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in addition to worship, prayer and discussions regarding unity during “A Conversation about America’s Future with Donald Trump and Ben Carson.”
The nearly day-long event in mid-town Manhattan was organized by United in Purpose, an inclusive non-partisan associations committed to bringing about cultural change in America, based on Judeo-Christian principles, and motivating and mobilizing people of faith in the political and democratic process through responsible citizenship.
The unprecedented private, invitation-only gathering provided Trump the opportunity to answer pre-selected, leader-submitted questions on issues critical to the faith community. Gov. Mike Huckabee moderated the discussion, while various leaders asked questions within their respective areas of expertise.
Veteran radio host and cultural commentator Dr. James Dobson asked the first question about religious liberty, and how a future Trump administration would preserve that foundational right for Americans, noting that of the thousands of questions submitted by attendees, this was the No. 1 topic of inquiry.
“The first thing we will do is support Supreme Court Justices who are talented men and women, and pro-life,” said Trump, noting people of faith have lost a lot of their rights. “If I get elected, we are going to have a time when people will say, ‘Merry Christmas’ again…When a coach leads his team in prayer before going into battle, and they fire the coach, were going to change that.
“The media has taken away your power, which is why Christianity is going down,” Trump added. “Whatever we can do, I will get rid of all those problems. The biggest problem for Christianity is that you don’t have the right to be yourselves. Even though ministers are people with power and influence, you just accept this. But you have a bigger lobby then any other demographic – you represent 85 percent of the population.”
Throughout the remainder of the conversation, leaders questioned Trump on topics of national defense, Supreme Court nominees, immigration and sanctity of life. While he spoke of a number of previously stated policies, one future plan he continually reinforced was his desire to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
“I think it will be my greatest contribution to Christianity and all religions to allow you to speak openly. You have a right to do that,” Trump said. “People walking down the street have more power than you, because they can say whatever they want.”
The purpose of the entire Q&A session was for leaders to hear the heart of the real Donald Trump, not what the media are saying about him. In the opening session of the gathering, prior to Trump’s arrival, United in Purpose CEO and event organizer Bill Dallas stressed his vision for the day and his hope for attendees – engagement not just in politics, but also across culture.
“We believe culture can be changed back to represent Judeo-Christian principles,” Dallas said. “Christians can be a sleeping giant in culture, but if we get activated and motivated and wake up, not in an angry way but standing strong on principles, we can make a difference.”
Dallas also told the audience United in Purpose has extended a similar invitation to Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton to allow her equal opportunity to dialogue with faith leaders.
Also prior to Trump taking the stage, Carson provided a brief reminder to the group of the importance of using their civic right and the importance of unity in seeking God’s direction for the future of our nation.
“This election is not about a person; this is about America and what America represents,” Carson said. “It’s not about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. It is about whether this will be a nation that is of, for and about the people or of, for and about the government.”
Following Trump’s session, a panel discussion with event conveners provided a time of reflection on what was heard and how leaders can unify moving forward to impact our nation.
Leaders also heard from a several prominent presenters, including researcher George Barna, president of American Culture and Faith Institute, who gave attendees a quantitative and qualitative overview on the state of our culture, and New York Times bestselling author and national radio host, Eric Metaxas, who provided a vision for America moving forward.