When he was pastor of a prominent megachurch in Orlando, Joel Hunter never told anyone how he voted, but like many White evangelical leaders, he picked Donald Trump in 2016. Trump was friendly with the conservative Christian community, and Hunter thought, “Well, let’s give it a shot.”
“Hillary Clinton never did reach out to the evangelical community,” Hunter said. “So I thought, we’re not going to have much of an influence or impact on policy with her, but we might with Trump.”
On Friday, Hunter will join other evangelicals who represent major Christian institutions to launch a group, Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden, describing the Democrat’s overall agenda as closer to what they call a “biblically balanced agenda,” even though they disagree with Biden on abortion rights.
… The group favoring Biden, set up by longtime evangelical leaders Ron Sider and Rich Mouw, includes several leaders who have since retired from major evangelical institutions. Among them is John Huffman, who was board chair of Christianity Today magazine, a lifelong Republican and former pastor to President Richard Nixon. He is planning to vote for a Democrat for the first time.
Huffman, who did not vote for either Trump or Clinton in 2016, decided to support Biden this time around because he said he has seen how few conservatives are willing to stand up to [Trump].
“I’m coming as an evangelical who is pro-life and prepared to say the Republicans don’t own ‘pro-life’ and they don’t own evangelical,” Huffman said.
Huffman said he knows several leaders of major evangelical institutions who would like to oppose Trump, but they will not because their supporters would pull funding.
“We feel like we are speaking for a lot of evangelical leaders who are as intimidated as senators who have to support the president for reelection,” Huffman said. “This man has demanded a kind of loyalty that is very much cult-like.”
The group for Biden also includes Jerushah Duford, the South Carolina-based granddaughter of late evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, who said that she feels passionately about showing voters who describe themselves as “pro-life” that they can support a Democratic president.
Duford, who took in children through foster care for 10 years and adopted one of the kids she fostered, said she believes that economic policies that support mothers who want to carry a pregnancy to term help to lower the abortion rate.
“There are so many evangelicals who are one-issue voters and abortion is their issue. It is an issue that singlehandedly prevents them from voting for Biden,” she said. “I want to validate that struggle that people are having who care about pro-life issues.”
… Cizik, who advised President Ronald Reagan on his 1983 “Evil Empire” speech in front of evangelicals, said he supported Republican presidents for 32 years until 2016. He said the turning point for his advocacy was reading a quote from director of national intelligence Daniel Coats, who is an evangelical.
“To [Trump], a lie is not a lie,” Coats is quoted as saying in journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, “Rage.” “It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”
Cizik cast his vote for Clinton in 2016, but he has never openly advocated for a presidential candidate until now.
“I blame my fellow evangelicals for not publicly challenging this man’s arrogance, lies and unconstitutional acts to subvert the election,” Cizik said.
… The group launching Friday said Biden’s policies are more consistent with “a biblically shaped ethic of life” than Trump’s.
“Poverty, lack of accessible health care services, smoking, racism and climate change are all pro-life issues,” the leaders said in a statement. “Therefore, we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.”