Politics & Policy

Trump: Some Questions Iowa Evangelicals Need to Ask

Trump campaigns in Iowa City, Iowa, January 26, 2016 (Joe Raedle/Getty)

Donald Trump, the billionaire playboy from Queens, may be about to triumph at the polls in famously Evangelical Iowa. Earlier this week, the Republican frontrunner earned the endorsement of Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr., who declared that Trump “lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment.”

The soul of any man is unfathomable except to his Maker. But the good Reverend’s declaration seems to contradict the evidence. Below are four issues of particular interest to religious voters, like those who often have been so vocal in Iowa. Where does Donald Trump fall on them?

‐Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you . . . 

Whatever else the Center for Medical Progress’s videos may accomplish, they have made defunding Planned Parenthood — the nation’s foremost abortion provider, performing 300,000-plus abortions annually — a sine qua non for conservative officeholders. This month, the Republican-led Congress finally put a bill to defund Planned Parenthood on President Obama’s desk. If Republicans hold the legislative branch this election season, they will be able to put the same bill on the desk of the next president.

If that president is Donald Trump, will he sign it?

RELATED: Trump Is Not the Moral Leader We Need

In 1999, Trump told Meet the Press host Tim Russert that he was “very pro-choice” and that he would not support a ban on partial-birth abortions (that ban was signed by George W. Bush in 2003). “I hate the concept of abortion, I hate it, I hate everything it stands for,” he said, but “I just believe in choice.” The next year, in his book The America We Deserve, Trump reversed his position on a partial-birth abortion ban, but reiterated his “support [for] a woman’s right to choose.”

Eleven years later, in a surprise for the crowd at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump proclaimed himself “pro-life.” Queried about the change in 2015, he said that he had “evolved” on the issue, like Ronald Reagan. “I am very, very proud to say that I am pro-life.”

Trump’s approach to Planned Parenthood, an unabashed abortion mill, is ambiguous, at best.

And perhaps he has changed his mind. But Trump’s approach to Planned Parenthood, an unabashed abortion mill, is ambiguous, at best. Asked in August whether he would defund the organization, he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo that abortion “should not be funded by the government,” but added: “What I would do when the time came, I’d look at the individual things they do. . . . I’m sure they do some things properly and good and that are good for women, and I would look at that.” As I pointed out at the time, that’s what the law says now — and it does nothing. It’s impossible to fund “just the good parts” of an abortion mill.

Notably, a list of prominent pro-life women issued an open letter urging Iowa voters to support “anyone but Donald Trump.” “On the issue of defending unborn children and protecting women from the violence of abortion,” they wrote, “Mr. Trump cannot be trusted.”

Again: If a defunding bill were on his desk, would he sign it?

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Nebraska senator Ben Sasse was criticized for including among a list of questions he posed to Trump on Twitter the following:

But Trump’s infidelities are not only public knowledge; the candidate has actively boasted about them. “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal. And in Think Big and Kick Ass: “Beautiful, famous, successful, married — I’ve had them all, secretly, the world’s biggest names.” Trump’s first marriage ended in part because of a long-running, widely publicized affair with Marla Maples.

RELATED: Yes, It Was Fair for Ben Sasse to Question Donald Trumo About His Many Affairs

An affair is not necessarily disqualifying from public office. But the Christian life is about conversion, literally, a “turning-round,” away from sin and toward faithful dependence on God made known in Jesus Christ. Christian voters have been willing to forgive Newt Gingrich and John McCain, both of whom conducted extramarital affairs.

Has Donald Trump given voters concerned about a public servant’s character any reason to believe he has changed?

One must take note, too, of Trump’s many objectionable comments about women, whom he has called “fat pigs” and “dogs” and “bimbos.” And, as he told Esquire in 1991: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

Does the Donald still feel that way?

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‐Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

In lieu of Thursday night’s Fox News debate, Trump hosted an event in Iowa “for the Veterans and Wounded Warriors, who have been treated so horribly by our all talk, no action politicians,” as his campaign put it.

Trump has a history of trying to squeeze out the less fortunate.

But in New York City, where a number of street veterans have special disabled-veteran’s licenses that allow them to make their living by peddling along parts of Fifth Avenue and its side streets, Trump has long been trying to expel them. As Michael Daly reports in the Daily Beast, Trump penned a letter to the New York State Assembly in 1991 complaining about the peddlers: “While disabled veterans should be given every opportunity to earn a living, is it fair to do so to the detriment of the city as a whole or its tax paying citizens and businesses? . . . Do we allow Fifth Avenue, one of the world’s finest and most luxurious shopping districts, to be turned into an outdoor flea market, clogging and seriously downgrading the area?” And he has worked since to keep them away from his Manhattan properties.

And Trump has a history of trying to squeeze out the less fortunate. One might recall Vera Coking, the elderly widow whose apartment Trump attempted to seize to construct a limousine parking lot for an Atlantic City casino.

As The Weekly Standard’s Matt Labash wrote recently, Trump “loves the little guy, unless the little guy needs to be crushed.”

Is this how the Donald would be as president? Has he given voters reason to think that he would put first the chief of virtues, charity?

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

The Obama administration and its allies have spent seven years systematically pressing religious faith to the margins of public life. For answering a hypothetical question about catering a same-sex wedding, Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Ind., was mobbed and vilified. Photographers and bakers and florists who have refused to endorse same-sex marriage have been hauled into court. Meanwhile, the Little Sisters of the Poor continue to press their case against the administration’s Health & Human Services mandate requiring religious employers to provide insurance plans covering contraception and abortifacients; their claim is now before the highest court in the land.

RELATED: Trumpism Is Just Two-Bit Caesarism

To protect the religious freedom of those who object to same-sex marriage, Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) has put forward the First Amendment Defense Act, a crucial piece of legislation that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee have all pledged that they would sign within 100 days of taking office. Donald Trump did not sign the pledge, instead responding, “If Congress considers the First Amendment Defense Act a priority, then I will do all I can to make sure it comes to my desk for signature.”

#related#Trump’s attention to religious liberty has been minimal, and what thoughts he has offered are, as is so often the case with Trump, vague: “I will protect Christians,” he told his audience at Liberty University recently. And to radio host Hugh Hewitt: “A week doesn’t go by where there’s not some negative ruling on something having to do with Christianity. . . . I’ll be fighting on the other side much stronger than anybody else that you have up there fighting, because I think it’s really outrageous.”

Okay. But what does that mean?

And, of course, Trump’s ambiguous responses to questions about monitoring mosques and registering Muslims indicate an alarming lack of concern for the First Amendment.

Will Donald Trump defend the rights of all believers, and assert what the Founders understood: that religious liberty is not one liberty among others, but the liberty that makes all others possible?

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Persons of good faith can (and will!) disagree about whether Donald Trump is the best candidate for the office of the presidency. But conservative Christians who seek to elevate someone who shares their principles and commitments should carefully consider Trump’s biography before making their decision.

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