5 Most Important Quotes from Trump’s Evangelical Summit

It seems like not a day goes by when a reporter or political commentator declares why Trump has or has not won over the evangelical vote. Trump has been struggling with the voting bloc, many members of which are turned off by his history of divorce, materialism and celebrity. But, as Sarah Posner pointed out in the Washington Post, the candidate also remains evangelicals’ best hope to carry out one of their most prized political demands: “to nominate justices who share their commitment to making abortion illegal.”

On June 21, Donald Trump met with several hundred evangelical leaders in New York City for what was billed as a friendly and candid question-and-answer session about the candidate’s views on those issues most pressing to evangelicals: religious liberty, abortion, and the Supreme Court. By all accounts, Trump went on a full-fledged charm offensive to win over the hearts—and votes—of the evangelicals in attendance. “There’s nothing more important than this group of people to me,” he told moderator Mike Huckabee.

Here’s a rundown of the most important promises (however incoherent) he made during the closed-door meeting:

1. On Supreme Court Justices with “tremendous reviews” and pro-life pedigrees:

“We’re going to appoint great Supreme Court justices. And these will be Supreme Court justices that will be great intellects, that will be talented men in what they do (and women), but also be pro-life.”

“I’m putting pro-life judges on. … The justices that I’ve put on, and you can look at their names and we have them posted, but the justices, I have gotten tremendous, rave reviews from the people that we’ve picked. Eleven, we’ve picked 11 so far. And we’ll pick a few more and they’ll be very similar. I’ve gotten tremendous reviews. The alternative is the opposite. There won’t be any pro-life judges put on there. They will be all pro-choice. They will be all, 100 percent.”

2. On religious freedom and “freeing up your thoughts”:

“The government has gotten so involved in your religion. Especially your religion, that it makes it very difficult. We’ll talk about that. Mike and I have been discussing it, and I think we have some very important things to say. The next president—it’s going to be vital. Not only with Supreme Court justices, which we’ll also talk about at length. But also in things like freeing up your religion, freeing up your thoughts, freeing up your. … You talk about religious liberty and religious freedom. You really don’t have religious freedom, if you really think about it.”

3. On repealing the Johnson Amendment, which would clear the way for religious leaders to endorse or oppose candidates:

“It’s taken a lot of power away from Christianity and other religions. I’ve seen it. …. There are petrified ministers and churches. They speak before 25,000 people, the most incredible speakers you could ever see, better than any politician by far. And yet when it comes to talking about it openly or who they support or why they support somebody because he’s a person—a man or a woman—who is into their values, they’re petrified to do it. And I couldn’t get the answer. And then one day, at one of our meetings, somebody said, “They’re petrified of losing their tax-exempt status.” And I said, “What is that all about?” And they went into it. It was what happened during the Johnson administration.”

“I think it may be my greatest contribution to Christianity—and other religions—is to allow you to go and speak openly. If you like somebody and you want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do that.”

“And I actually said, ‘How is it possible for Lyndon Johnson to get that through?’—you call it an amendment or whatever you want to call it, which took away this tremendous power. And honestly, people were asleep at the wheel. Something happened. We’re going to get it revoked. And we’re going to be incredible for evangelicals, for Christianity and for other religions.”

4. On requiring businesses to start saying Merry Christmas again:

“I always say, we’re gonna have a time very soon, when I get elected, when people are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ again. You don’t say it right now. You go into the big department stores, they don’t have Merry Christmas up. They have ‘Happy Holidays,’ and now even that is coming under assault. You can’t say ‘Happy Holidays.’ We’re becoming so politically correct that we can’t function as a country anymore. We’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again, and we’re going to be saying a lot of other things.”

5. On being pro-Israel, and bringing Israel back fast:

“I’m 100 percent for Israel. I have been forever. It is an amazing country. It has been shunned by the United States, in favor of Iran and others.”

“Israel’s almost like lost to our country. We will bring that back, and we will bring it back fast. We’re going to be close to Israel.”