Trump Backs Louisiana Law Requiring Ten Commandments In Schools In Address To Influential Evangelicals

Former President Donald Trump told a group of evangelicals they "cannot afford to sit on the sidelines" of the 2024 election, imploring them at one point to "go and vote, Christians, please!"

Sunday, June 23rd 2024, 9:15 am

By: CBS News


Former President Donald Trump told a group of evangelicals they "cannot afford to sit on the sidelines" of the 2024 election, imploring them at one point to "go and vote, Christians, please!"

 Trump also endorsed displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and elsewhere while speaking to a group of politically influential evangelical Christians in Washington on Saturday. He drew cheers as he invoked a new law signed in Louisiana this week that makes it the first state to require the Ten Commandments be displayed in every public school classroom.

"Has anyone read the 'Thou shalt not steal'? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It's just incredible," Trump said at the gathering of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. "They don't want it to go up. It's a crazy world.''

Trump, a day earlier, posted an endorsement of the new law on his social media network, saying: "I LOVE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS, AND MANY OTHER PLACES, FOR THAT MATTER. READ IT — HOW CAN WE, AS A NATION, GO WRONG???"

The former president and presumptive Republican presidential nominee backed the move as he seeks to galvanize his supporters on the religious right, which has fiercely backed him after initially being suspicious of the twice-divorced New York City tabloid celebrity when he first ran for president in 2016.

That has continued with his conviction in the first of four criminal cases he faces, in which a jury last month found him guilty of falsifying business records for what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. Daniels claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies.

A Federal Ban On Abortion

Trump's stated opposition to signing a nationwide ban on abortion, and his reluctance to detail some of his views on the issue, are at odds with many members of the evangelical movement, a key part of Trump's base that's expected to help him turn out voters in his November rematch with Democratic President Biden.

But while many members of the movement would like to see him do more to restrict abortion, they cheer him as the greatest champion for the cause because of his role in appointing Supreme Court justices who overturned national abortion rights in 2022.

Trump highlighted that Saturday, saying, "We did something that was amazing," but the issue would be left to people to decide in the states.

"Every voter has to go with your heart and do what's right, but we also have to get elected," he said.

While he still takes credit for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Trump has also warned abortion can be tricky politically for Republicans. For months, he deferred questions about his position on a national ban.

Last year, when Trump addressed the Faith & Freedom Coalition, he said there was "a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life," but didn't offer any details beyond that.

In April of this year, Trump said he believed the issue should now be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it was passed by Congress. He has still declined to detail his position on women's access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

Some anti-abortion activists, including Jocaved Torres, have said they will push Trump to support a federal ban.

"The people he surrounds himself with are pro-life, so we are confident that, you know, his mind could be changed," Torres told CBS News at the Faith & Freedom Coalition event.

"There is a lot that the former president could do if put back into office with just executive action," said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Planned Parenthood's political arm.

Johnson says reproductive rights are still driving support for Mr. Biden.

"The energy is on fire on the ground," Johnson said. "People understand what it means to have a freedom taken away, especially one that we have enjoyed for almost 50 years."

Mr. Biden is expected to attack Trump as a threat to abortion rights during Thursday's presidential debate, as both campaigns hope to break through to undecided voters.

About two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be legal, according to polling last year by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

While he still takes credit for the reversal of Roe v. Wade, Trump has also warned abortion can be tricky politically for Republicans. For months he deferred questions about his position on a national ban. 

Last year, when Trump addressed Reed's group, he said there was "a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life" but didn't offer any details beyond that.

In April of this year, Trump said he believed the issue should now be left to the states. He later stated in an interview that he would not sign a nationwide ban on abortion if it was passed by Congress. He has still declined to detail his position on women's access to the abortion pill mifepristone.

In 2016, white evangelical Christians were initially reluctant to support Trump and suspicious of his image as a twice-divorced New York City tabloid celebrity who had at one point described himself as "very pro-choice."

But his promises to appoint justices to the court that would overturn Roe, along with his decision in 2016 to name Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, as his running mate, helped him gain the movement's backing.

Evangelical Support

According to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate, about 8 in 10 white evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in 2020, and nearly 4 in 10 Trump voters identified as white evangelical Christians. White evangelical Christians made up about 20% of the overall electorate that year.

Beyond just offering their own support in the general election, the Faith & Freedom Coalition plans to help get out the vote for Trump and other Republicans, aiming to use volunteers and paid workers to knock on millions of doors in battleground states. 

Trump on Saturday said evangelicals and Christians "don't vote as much as they should," and joked that while he wanted them to vote in November, he didn't care if they voted again after that.

He portrayed Christianity as under threat by what he suggested was an erosion of freedom, law and the nation's borders.

He returned several times during his roughly 90-minute remarks to the subject of the U.S.-Mexico border and at one point, when describing migrants crossing it as "tough," he joked that he told his friend Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, to enlist them in a new version of the sport.

"'Why don't you set up a migrant league and have your regular league of fighters. And then you have the champion of your league, these are the greatest fighters in the world, fighting the champion of the migrants,'" Trump described saying to White. "I think the migrant guy might win, that's how tough they are. He didn't like that idea too much."

His story drew laughs and claps from the crowd.

Several Republicans seen as potential running mates for Trump were also speaking at the conference, including New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, former presidential candidate and Trump Housing Secretary Ben Carson, and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake. Stefanik and Carson are among the Republicans who received vetting paperwork from the Trump campaign in recent weeks.

Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, said members of his coalition are watching them closely and looking for Trump to pick someone who shares his views.

"We're looking for somebody who will be a champion, a pro-family and pro-life and pro-Israel champion. And we're looking for someone who has the ability to bring some new folks into the fold and act as an ambassador for our values," he said.

Reed wouldn't name any of the field as strongest or weakest, calling it "an embarrassment of riches."

Later Saturday, Trump plans to hold an evening rally in Philadelphia.

logo

Get The Daily Update!

Be among the first to get breaking news, weather, and general news updates from News on 6 delivered right to your inbox!

More Like This

June 23rd, 2024

July 16th, 2024

September 21st, 2023

September 13th, 2023

Top Headlines

July 25th, 2024

July 25th, 2024

July 25th, 2024

July 25th, 2024