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Dawn of a New Friendship? Evangelicals Talk Trump after Big Meeting

06-22-2016
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Could Tuesday's meeting signify a new relationship between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and evangelicals?

Bishop Harry Jackson attended the meeting with Trump. Watch clips from the CBN News interview.

The event organizers hoped the meeting would spark meaningful conversation and a desire for unity among evangelicals in the upcoming presidential election.

Bishop E.W. Jackson tweeted quotes and videos of Trump's speech throughout the gathering. His tweets reveal that Trump placed significant emphasis on the strength of the evangelical Christian vote in the upcoming election. Trump believes he owes his success to evangelicals.

CBN's David Brody was one of a select few journalists inside of today's meeting between Donald Trump and evangelical leaders. Watch his analysis below.

"I owe so much to Christianity," Trump said in his talk. "I owe it, quite frankly, to be standing here because the evangelical vote was mostly gotten by me."

Trump said the current leaders are "selling the evangelicals down the tubes" and urged Christians to do more than just pray for their leaders, but to vote, too.

"You can pray for our leaders, and I agree with that. Pray for everyone," he said. "But what you really have to do is pray to get everybody out to vote for one specific person."

President and CEO of First Liberty Law Institute Kelly Shackelford attended the gathering and was one of six people selected to ask Trump questions.

"For me, there are two ultimate issues in this election: religious freedom and the federal courts," Shackelford said following the meeting. "I was grateful that the number one topic of today's conversation was religious liberty, giving us a good starting point to understand where Mr. Trump stands on the issue."  

According to Shackelford, Trump noted current religious freedom battles facing Christians today.

"I appreciated how, very early in the meeting, Mr. Trump brought up First Liberty's client, Coach Joe Kennedy, and expressed his concern that a high school football coach would be fired for praying after a game. Mr. Trump said attacks on faith like this need to stop and I agree."

Shackelford believes the meeting signified one step toward a brighter future. 

"I think today was a good start and I look forward to continuing the conversation," he said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, was also pleased with Trump's commitment to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme court.

"I was encouraged when Mr. Trump reiterated the most important pro-life commitment he has made to date: that he would appoint pro-life judges to SCOTUS," she said. "To quote him verbatim, "We are going to appoint great Supreme Court justices... These will be justices of great intellect... And they will be pro-life."

Trump's comments in the highly anticipated meeting with evangelicals come after a concerning Barna Group poll out earlier in the year about the missing evangelical vote.

According to the study, 40 to 50 million Christians, many of them evangelicals, failed to vote in the last presidential election. There are 82 million practicing Christians in the country, meaning almost half didn't practice their right to vote.

CBN News spoke with Chad Connelly, the Republican National Committee director of faith, to talk about the importance of the evangelical vote.

"I think the Left in the media have been really good at telling us, 'You Christians are really good at evangelism and missions, but you shouldn't be involved in politics,'" Connelly said.

However, he disagrees with their message, saying "It's time we get involved."

Connelly believes the first step towards getting involved is for evangelical Christians to build relationships with their leaders first. 

Trump tried building trust with faith leaders Tuesday by focusing on issues that are of key importance of evangelical voters, like religious liberty. However, it is yet to be seen if he can get evangelical voters to unite around him in November.

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