Trump, Urging Evangelicals To ‘Go and Vote,’ Endorses Displaying Ten Commandments in Schools

‘Has anyone read the “Thou shalt not steal”? I mean, has anybody read this incredible stuff? It’s just incredible,’ GOP front-runner observes.

AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
President Trump at Washington, June 22, 2024. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Updated at 6:10 P.M. E.D.T.

WASHINGTON — President 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.”

The GOP front-runner also endorsed displaying the Ten Commandments in schools and elsewhere while speaking to a group of politically influential evangelical Christians at Washington on Saturday.

He drew cheers as he invoked a new law signed in Louisiana this week requiring the Ten Commandments to 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 support has continued despite 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 adult film actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.

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 President Biden.

While many members of the movement would like to see him do more to restrict abortion, though, 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.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition’s founder and chairman, Ralph Reed, said people in his movement would like to see a federal ban on abortion and want Republican elected officials to be “profiles in courage” who are “articulating their strongly held pro-life views.”

Mr. Reed, though, said Trump’s positions do not put him at risk of losing any of the deep support of evangelical voters who give him “more slack in the rope than they would likely give another politician.”

“I don’t think it’s going to hurt him at all because he’s got enormous credibility on this issue,” Mr. Reed said. “He did more for the pro-life and pro-family cause than any president we’ve ever had in the history of the movement.”

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 percent of the overall electorate that year.

Beyond just offering their own support in the general election, Mr. Reed’s group 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.

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 Mr. 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.”

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

Several Republicans seen as potential running mates for Trump are also speaking at the conference, including Representative Elise Stefanik of New York; the former presidential candidate and Trump’s secretary of housing and urban development, Ben Carson; and Arizona Senate candidate Kari Lake. 

Ms. Stefanik and Dr. Carson are among the Republicans who received vetting paperwork from the Trump campaign in recent weeks.

Mr. Reed 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.

Mr. Reed wouldn’t name any of the field as strongest or weakest, calling it “an embarrassment of riches.”

Associated Press

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