Christian leaders balk at Falwell’s Trump endorsement: ‘The late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. would be rolling over in his grave’
Jerry Falwell Jr.’s endorsement of Donald Trump on Tuesday was swiftly met with a backlash from other Christian conservatives sounding the alarm about what they see as a dangerous candidate with questionable morals.
While the official backing of Trump wasn’t a big surprise — Falwell had heaped praise on Trump last week when he spoke at Liberty University — it came during a fraught time, as many are waking up to the real possibility that Trump could win Iowa next week and embark on a glide path to the nomination.
John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, invoked Falwell’s dad, the founder of Liberty University, in his warning, saying the elder Falwell would be aghast at the Republican poll leader.
“The late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the son who bore his name had endorsed the most immoral and ungodly man to ever run for President of the United States,” Stemberger said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “It is one thing to allow the free exchange of ideas, even bad ideas, among college students on a Christian campus. It is quite another to give a glowing endorsement-like introduction calling Donald Trump … This in no way represents the legacy of Dr. Jerry Falwell, Sr.”
Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, a conservative coalition that describes itself as promoting Biblical values, said she “strongly” disagrees with the endorsement.
Nance, who graduated from Liberty and currently has a daughter there, told POLITICO that she loves the school and respects Falwell, but said, “I have deep concerns about Donald Trump’s commitment to life and his respect for women.”
She signed on to an open letter from a number of social conservative leaders addressed to Iowa voters on Tuesday that pleaded, “As pro-life women leaders from Iowa and across the nation, we urge Republican caucus-goers and voters to support anyone but Donald Trump.
Nance told POLITICO that while Christianity is about forgiveness and while they are always happy for people to switch their views from pro-abortion rights to anti-abortion rights, Trump’s lack of explanation on certain views concerns her.
“Ronald Reagan changed his mind on abortion. We appreciate and want people to change their minds if they’re not pro-life but unfortunately when asked deeper questions he has been unable and unwilling to specify some really key issues like judges,” Nance said. She pointed to the fact that Trump said his that his sister, who is a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, would be a “phenomenal” choice for the Supreme Court, with Nance noting that “she’s extremely pro-abortion.”
Falwell’s endorsement of Trump came as he gains traction with evangelical voters, a crucial constituency in Iowa, despite his shifting record on abortion rights, and his bombastic statements about his bible collection. Trump, who is an avowed Presbyterian, has made more of a showing in recent months of attending church and playing up his religious views.
There are signs it’s paying off. A new NBC News/Survey Monkey weekly online tracking poll out Tuesday shows that Trump has 37 percent of the support of evangelicals, nearly double Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 20 percent.