Donald Trump told evangelical leaders Tuesday that they can pray for the nation’s leaders — but they should also pray for people to get out and vote for him.
“You can pray for your leaders, and I agree with that — pray for everyone,” Trump said, per a video tweeted out by a meeting participant. “But what you really have to do is, you have to pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person.”
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee then suggested that some leaders weren’t worth praying for.
“And we can’t be, again, politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders, because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling evangelicals down the tubes,” Trump said, “and it’s a very, very bad thing that’s happening.”
Hundreds of pastors and religious leaders attended the meeting in New York City, including some who backed other candidates during the Republican nomination race.
Bishop E.W. Jackson of Virginia tweeted out video of some of Trump’s comments and expressed support for the New York businessman.
Kelly Shackelford — president of the First Liberty Institute, a Dallas-based religious liberty law firm — said attendees asked Trump about issues ranging from immigration to the military. But most of the questions dealt with issues of religious liberty, whether it was a coach fired for praying at a game to problems with accreditation of some Christian schools.
“There was just a palpable concern about attacks on religious freedom,” Shackelford said.
Shackelford. who asked Trump some of the questions during the meeting, backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination. He has not endorsed Trump, but said “I hadn’t really met him” before the session on Tuesday, and “I think he showed real concern about these (religious) issues.”
Trump told the group that religious conservatives are “the largest constituency in the country,” Shackelford said, and can help him win in November.
While Trump’s divorces, relationships, and business dealings have been tabloid fodder for decades, he did well with religious voters during the recent Republican primaries and hopes to do well with them again in the November election against Hillary Clinton.
“The evangelical vote was gotten mostly by me,” Trump told the group in reference to the Republican race. “I won the whole South.”