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Array of Baptists embrace presidential contenders

The campaign trail is cutting an ever-widening swath through Southern Baptist notables.

In short:

— Paige Patterson is among the Southern Baptists on a Ted Cruz religious liberty advisory board; R. Albert Mohler Jr. is on a Marco Rubio pro-life advisory board; and Rick Warren is on a Rubio religious liberty advisory board.

— Cruz has been endorsed by Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, and by his Houston pastor, Gregg Matte of First Baptist Church.

— Donald Trump now has former candidate Mike Huckabee’s daughter as one of his senior advisers.

— Ohio Gov. John Kasich has garnered endorsements from former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.


Cruz advisory board

The Ted Cruz campaign announced its 19-member religious liberty advisory board on March 1.

In addition to Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, the board includes Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a former U.S. Senate candidate; Tony Beam, North Greenville University’s vice president for student services and Christian worldview; and home rehab personalities David and Jason Benham.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council in Washington and a Southern Baptist, is the advisory board’s chairman. Also on the board are Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation.


Rubio advisory boards

The Marco Rubio campaign announced its 10-member pro-life advisory board on Jan. 19 and its 15-member religious liberty advisory board on Jan. 5.

In addition to Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., the pro-life Rubio panel includes Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate; Ravi Zacharias, president of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries; Scott Klusendorf, president of the Life Training Institute; Francis Beckwith, professor of philosophy and church-state studies at Baylor University; and Steve Aden of the Alliance Defending Freedom serving as director of its Center for Life Alliances.

In addition to Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, the Rubio religious liberty panel, according to a report by WORLD Magazine in January, includes Thomas White, president of Cedarville University in Ohio; Wayne Grudem, research professor of theology and biblical studies with Phoenix Seminary; Thomas Kidd, distinguished professor of history and associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion; and Doug Napier, executive vice president of the Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Rubio religious liberty board also included Samuel Rodriguez, who was listed on the similar board with the Cruz campaign. Baptist Press attempted to check with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference but had not received clarification by its March 3 mid-afternoon deadline.


Trump & Huckabee

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s daughter Sarah Huckabee joined the Trump campaign as a senior adviser on Feb. 25, according to CNN, after the Huckabee presidential campaign was suspended in early February.

Sarah Huckabee, in a statement quoted by CNN, said she “volunteered to join Mr. Trump’s campaign because he is a champion of working families; not Washington-Wall Street elites.” Trump “will break the grip of the donor class on our government and make it accountable to working families again,” she said.

On Super Tuesday (March 1), Mike Huckabee made Trump-related news when he admonished on the “Fox and Friends” morning show, “… don’t pretend somehow that all these voters who have gone out and voted for him are stupid,” The Hill reported. “They’re not stupid … they’re angry.”

Huckabee, who has not endorsed Trump, is a former Fox News personality, Baptist pastor and president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.


Other endorsements

— Jerry Johnson, NRB president and a former president of Criswell College in Dallas and former administrator at Southern Seminary, endorsed Cruz in a two-minute YouTube video Feb. 29 titled “Why I’m voting for Ted Cruz in 2016.” Johnson acknowledged his role with NRB in the video but stated that he was making the endorsement as an individual.

— Gregg Matte, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Houston where Cruz and his family are members, embraced Cruz’s candidacy in a statement to the campaign initially in December which was recirculated on Matte’s Facebook page in late February.

“We all know Senator Cruz as a brilliant, strong, and confident leader, unswervingly handling the Constitution with respect and wisdom,” Matte, a former president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference, said. “But I also know him as a husband, father, and friend. Ted Cruz is in touch with the normal routines of everyday life while also being outstanding in dealing with the complex issues of our day. This combination of character and competence gives me confidence that, under Ted’s leadership, America can once again head in the right direction.”

— Rubio’s campaign website lists the endorsements of former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Hobby Lobby founder David Green.

— In January, much-publicized pro-Trump comments were voiced by Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, but not a formal endorsement, while Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, endorsed the New York tycoon and TV personality. Critical assessments of Trump, meanwhile, have been frequently voiced by Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission who has not endorsed a candidate or otherwise openly identified with a candidate.

— Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign in Mississippi is being chaired by Andy Taggart, a member of the Jackson-area Broadmoor Baptist Church and former executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party who also served as a chief of staff for former Gov. Kirk Fordice.

A Kasich news release also listed the endorsements of Baptist church members Trent Lott, U.S. senator from Mississippi from 1988-2007, and Robert Bentley, Alabama’s current governor.

On Super Tuesday, Trump prevailed in seven states; Cruz in three; Rubio in one.

Original article can be read here: http://bpnews.net/46423/array-of-baptists-embrace-presidential-contenders

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Marco Rubio Targets Hispanic Voters in South, Central Florida

HIALEAH, Fla.—As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio fights to keep his presidential bid alive by winning the Republican primary in his home state on March 15, he needs to perform strongly with one group in particular: Hispanics in southern and central Florida.

On Wednesday, he sought to whip up supporters in this city northwest of Miami where the population is 95% Hispanic, mostly Cuban-American like him.

“This race is going to be very hard-fought, and the difference will be made here in South Florida,” he told a crowd gathered at a stadium, speaking in Spanish. “You need to turn out to vote at an overwhelming, historic level.”

Florida is a winner-take-all state. The candidate who wins the most votes, wins all 99 of the state’s delegates.

In Mr. Rubio’s home county of Miami-Dade, which includes Hialeah, Hispanics make up 73% of the 354,000 registered Republicans, by far the largest trove of such votes, according to the Florida division of elections. To offset businessman Donald Trump’s perceived strength in parts of northern and central Florida, Mr. Rubio “needs to pile up votes in South Florida,” said Susan MacManus, a professor at the University of South Florida.

Leading Cuban-American elected officials, including U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, endorsed him after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped out of the race.As Mr. Rubio was suffering a string of losses in the Super Tuesday states on March 1, he flew to Miami to rally a crowd at Tropical Park. He has returned repeatedly since then, and will participate in a GOP debate with the three other GOP candidates at the University of Miami on Thursday night.

Conservative Solutions PAC, a political committee backing Mr. Rubio, has run a Spanish-language TV ad urging Miami Latinos to help “one of our own be the next president.” Another group, Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, has run a Spanish-language radio ad featuring Willy Chirino, a Cuban-American singer, saying, “Marco fills us with pride” and “carries with him our hopes and dreams.”

Mr. Rubio is reaching out not only to Cuban-Americans but to other Hispanic groups whose numbers are increasing. On Wednesday, an organization called Venezuelans with Marco Rubio held a press conference to laud his efforts to combat human-rights violations in their home country, and aired a message Mr. Rubio recorded for them in Spanish in which he assured them he would “continue working in support of the liberty, democracy and respect for human rights of the Venezuelan people.”

Latino voter enthusiasm in Miami-Dade appears significant. So far, 19% of Hispanic registered Republicans in the county have cast early ballots—in-person or absentee—compared to 15% of Florida Republicans as a whole, according to an analysis by Daniel Smith, a professor at the University of Florida.

“Hispanic Republicans in Miami-Dade are over-performing,” he said. “For those discounting Rubio, I think it’s premature.”

Though it is impossible to know how many of those votes are for Mr. Rubio, analysts say it is likely that most of them are. A recentMonmouth University poll found that the non-white Republican electorate, mostly Cuban-Americans and other Hispanics, appeared to prefer Mr. Rubio over Mr. Trump, but the sample sizes were too small to provide exact percentages.

Still, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who also is Cuban-American, is making a play for the same bloc. On Wednesday, he held a rally in Miami at which one of the speakers was Manny Roman, the Hispanic vice chairman of the Republican Party of Miami-Dade County who endorsed Mr. Cruz in December.

“Y’all know how to make a Cuban feel welcome,” Mr. Cruz told the crowd.

In central Florida, a much smaller but still important chunk of Hispanic Republican votes lies in the Orlando area, which has a booming Puerto Rican population. Hispanics make up 12% of the 200,000 registered Republicans in Orange County, which includes Orlando, and 22% of the 43,000 in Osceola County, which encompasses the Puerto Rican bastion of Kissimmee.

In Orange County, only 9% of Hispanic registered Republicans have cast early ballots so far, meaning they are under-performing compared to the statewide GOP average, according to Mr. Smith’s analysis.

The urgency to drive up turnout in the primary next week dominated remarks by a bevy of Cuban-American elected officials who preceded Mr. Rubio on the stage in Miami on Wednesday. “Every time Hialeah, South Florida has gone out to vote, we have won elections,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

Among Mr. Rubio’s supporters in the crowd was Rolando Perez, a 73-year-old retiree who lives in nearby Opa-Locka. Only the Florida senator “can straighten out this country,” from improving the economy to taking stronger stances with hostile foreign governments, he said. Mr. Trump, he added, is “an old crazy man” who “speaks badly about everyone.”

Mr. Rubio already has Mr. Perez’s vote in the bag. The Opa-Locka resident mailed in his absentee ballot just a few days ago.

Because the Florida senator has been trailing the billionaire businessman by anywhere from 8 to 23 percentage points in recent polls, he needs to stand out in Thursday night’s debate.

“He’s got a great home-field advantage,” said David Johnson, a Republican consultant in Tallahassee. But “he needs a game-changing” performance.

Mr. Rubio batted away rumors that he was planning to drop out of the contest, calling them “categorically false.”

“I will continue to be a candidate,” he said. “In this community, we never give up.”

Earlier this week, Mr. Rubio campaigned in the Orlando area, holding a rally at an airport hangar in Sanford and visiting a Puerto Rican bakery in Kissimmee. And he recently won the GOP primary in Puerto Rico by a landslide, an accomplishment that could boost him on the mainland.

“It’s all hands on deck,” said Bertica Cabrera Morris, a regional chairman for Mr. Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign in central Florida who is now volunteering for his presidential run. “We believe Marco represents the Hispanic community better than any other campaign today.”

On Wednesday, a coalition of Latino conservative groups, including the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, held a press conference in Orlando to urge voters to stop Mr. Trump by voting for Mr. Rubio.

Original article can be read here: http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/03/10/marco-rubio-targets-hispanic-voters-in-south-central-florida/

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Christian Leaders Respond to Trump Rally Violence: ‘Culturally Unpopular Gospel of Christ’ Could Be Threatened

A number of Christian pastors have reacted to the violent protests seen at Donald Trump’s Chicago rally last week, with some stating that Christians should oppose free speech violations in all forms, and others warning that one day preaching about Jesus Christ could be threatened too.

“The idea that a mass of people can shut down free speech and subsequently silence free expression, runs counter to our God given constitutional rights,” Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told The Christian Post in response to the organized protests and unrest that led to Trump canceling his Friday rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“While Mr. Trump’s rhetorical demagoguery requires a civil yet poignant response, a chaotic and anarchist type strategy as exhibited in Chicago can one day threaten my right to preach the culturally unpopular Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

As for how believers should respond, Rodriguez said that while Christians must never engage in rhetorical or physical violence, they carry “the biblical mandate to speak truth with love while leading the way in reconciling our nation.”

“We must repudiate all vestiges of intolerance from the right and the left all the while leading people to the prophetic center; Christ,” he added.

“In other words, we must condemn rhetorical demagoguery and the infringement of our God endowed constitutional rights to free speech, expression and religion.”

Advocacy groups such as MoveOn.org have taken credit for supporting the protesters, made up mostly of left-wing activist and union groups opposed to Trump’s rhetoric on a number of issues, though they have denied causing the outbreaks of violence.

A political blame game has also developed, with Trump pointing the finger at Democratic rival Bernie Sanders for organizing protesters, while Sanders has fired back and placed the blame on what he said is Trump’s divisive speech.

Bishop E.W. Jackson, founder of Exodus Faith Ministries, a nondenominational ministry headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia, said Christians need to condemn the violence at Trump’s rallies, but argued that blame for the clashes cannot be laid at the feet of the billionaire businessman.

“This is a frequent tactic of leftist agitators who have no respect for the First Amendment and freedom of speech. This is the same reaction we see on college campuses when a speaker is scheduled who has conservative ideas,” Bishop E.W. Jackson pointed out.

“On the other hand, every leader has a responsibility to discourage violence and avoid having supporters misinterpret the candidate’s intentions. That said, even when a speaker says things that are incendiary, a person’s reactions are his or her own responsibility. Americans should be committed to the idea of debating issues and substance rather than hating and wanting to do harm to others,” he added.

Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., who is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, said Christians must pray for all remaining candidates in the election race, but must not draw back from attending rallies in the future.

“If we allow ourselves to be scared away from participating in this part of the democratic process, riot organizers will actually win. Therefore, we must keep speaking out,” the pastor said.

“Secondly, Donald Trump should continue to denounce the use of violence, from here on. His leadership team must help shape the attitude and outlook of his followers. He should go so far as to make sure that these events have a positive welcoming tone for everyone. (In the spirit of Romans 12 he must guide his people to move in the opposite spirit,” he continued.

“Bringing order to his future rallies could very well demonstrate his ability to unite a divided party and a divided nation.”

He reflected that for the past 18 months, America has been “experiencing a great deal of fear, anger, and mistrust for ideological candidates and parties,” pointing to the numerous riots, police shootings, demonstrations about race and other protests.

He said that both the Black Lives Matter Movement and the March for Life have made it fashionable to march and demonstrate again, but there have also been violent incidents, such as theburning down of a CVS store in downtown Baltimore following riots concerning the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died after being injured while in police custody.

The Hope Christian Church senior pastor suggested that America is returning to the national atmosphere of the 1960s and 1970s, and noted that the Chicago Trump rally was an opportunity for people who were angry and mobilized to lash out.

“Finally, let’s remember that paid agitators were involved in the Chicago rally. MoveOn.org and George Soros were mentioned prominently. This was an underhanded tactic committed by people that fear the entire field of conservative candidates,” he added.

Bishop Harry Jackson warned that if political rivals condone the type of violence seen at Trump’s rallies, they may see such behavior spread to other candidate’s events a well.

He also said that the Republican field is failing to realize that blaming Trump reinforces the idea that “a large number of Republicans are ignorant, racists who are also evangelicals,” and warned that conservatives and Republicans “are being defined as being angry, competitive, judgmental, and racist.”

Other notable evangelical voices, such as Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, who is also the executive editor of The Christian Post, have also said that the violence at Trump’s events threatens free speech in America, and reminded Christians that without free speech, religious freedom is also endangered.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-leaders-trump-rally-violence-culturally-unpopular-gospel-of-christ-threatened-159286/#EampiL5tvtxFREPK.99

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Donald Trump rally violence: Pastors urge Christians to fight against free speech violation

Christian pastors have reacted to Donald Trump’s rally violence, saying Christians should fight against free speech violations because these could one day block their right to preach about Jesus Christ.

From Feb. 29 to Mar. 14, police say 52 people have been charged in violent incidents during Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s campaign rallies, and 32 of those arrests happened during his St. Louis rally on Mar. 11. Also, more than 20 scuffles have occurred at the billionaire’s events in the same period, according to The Huffington Post.

Most of the individuals arrested have been charged of non-violent disorderly conduct or disrupting peace. However, the exact number of violent incidents and arrests associated with Trump rallies is still undetermined because of inconsistent reports.

Some Christian leaders have released comments on the Trump rally violence, particularly the Chicago event last week which the real estate mogul canceled due to the organized protests.

In an interview with The Christian Post, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president Rev. Samuel Rodriguez spoke out against protesters successfully silencing free expression.

“The idea that a mass of people can shut down free speech and subsequently silence free expression, runs counter to our God given constitutional rights,” said Rodriguez. “While Mr. Trump’s rhetorical demagoguery requires a civil yet poignant response, a chaotic and anarchist type strategy as exhibited in Chicago can one day threaten my right to preach the culturally unpopular Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

While Rodriguez said Christians must not be involved in physical violence, they should still obey the biblical command of speaking the truth in love. He said believers should always exert effort to lead people to Jesus Christ while fighting against those who seek to infringe on their freedom of speech and religion.

Exodus Faith Ministries founder Bishop E.W. Jackson urged Christians to condemn the Trump rally violence, but he said people should not place the blame on Trump himself. He said “leftist agitators” who do not honor the First Amendment are the ones responsible for such violent incidents, and encouraged leaders to discourage people from getting involved in violence.

Original article can be read here: http://www.christiantimes.com/article/donald-trump-rally-violence-pastors-urge-christians-to-fight-against-free-speech-violation/53918.htm

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Why I believe Ted Cruz is religious liberty’s only hope

America’s Christian bakers and florists and wedding planners will be safe under a Ted Cruz presidency.

“I am absolutely convinced in my discussions with the senator that religious liberty will be a lot better off in America with a Cruz administration,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and Chair of Cruz’s Religious Liberty Advisory Council.
The council released exclusively to me its initial recommendations for both legislative and executive actions that will restore the nation’s First Freedom – the freedom of religion.

“Unfortunately, this freedom has been systematically undermined and even assaulted under the policies of the current administration and previous Congresses,” Perkins said.

The council, made up of prominent religious leaders, recommended 15 action items that will protect Americans from discrimination by the federal government on the basis of their view of marriage and also protect employers threatened by the HHS contraception mandate.
The council is also calling on Cruz to direct a review of the IRS’ treatment of religious organizations and to direct federal agencies to respect the free exercise of religion.

“These are the policies that he is going to pursue,” Perkins told me. “He is absolutely committed to the issue of religious liberty.”

So will a Cruz presidency defend and protect small business owners facing assault for refusing to violate their religious beliefs?

“Yes,” Perkins told me.

Among the policies recommended to Cruz:

– Rescind Executive Order 13672 – an order that requires certain federal contractors to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity;

– Direct all federal agencies to stop interpreting “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and/or “gender identity.”

– Direct the Department of Health and Human Services to eliminate its requirement that all employers include coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptive methods and sterilization procedures;

– Direct the IRS to review all of its current guidance regarding religious organizations and issue clarifying guidance to the extent to which religious organization and religious leaders are able to engage in speech regarding political issues and candidates;

– Review and clarify existing Department of Education guidance on prayer at school to ensure it adequately explains the rights of students, teachers and other employees to live out their faith.

The council also urged Cruz to protect the religious liberty of military personnel – especially the rights of chaplains.

Cruz has been a passionate advocate of religious liberty for years. He’s been in the front line trenches defending our First Freedom – helping secure courtroom victories to preserve the Texas Ten Commandments monument and the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial.

“As president, I have pledged on my first day in office to rescind every single one of President Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions, and to direct every federal agency to respect and protect the religious liberty of every American,” Cruz said.

His vow is certainly welcome news to American Christians who have been subjected to eight years of vicious attacks by militant LGBT and atheist groups – not to mention the Obama administration.

“Our constitutional liberties should not be subject to the whims of the current administration, and – whether Hobby Lobby or the Little Sisters of the Poor – people of faith should not be made to bow down at the altar of political correctness,” Cruz said.

And Senator Cruz is not just blowing holy smoke. He’s assembled a powerful group of religious leaders – with impeccable credentials.

Cruz’s religious liberty council includes Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tony Beam, North Greenville University; David and Jason Benham; former Ambassador Ken Blackwell; Teresa Collett, University of St. Thomas; Jim Garlow, Skyline Church; Mark Harris; First Baptist Church of Charlotte, NC; Jack Hibbs, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills; Bishop Harry Jackson, Hope Christian Church; Richard Lee, president of There’s Hope America; Everett Piper, Oklahoma Wesleyan University; Jay Richards, The Catholic University of America; Steve Riggle, Grace Community Church; Samuel Rodriguez, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Kelly Shackelford, First Liberty Institute.

It’s a faith-based Justice League. And if Cruz follows their suggestions, American Christians will be able to sleep soundly at night.

Original article can be read here: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2016/03/24/why-believe-ted-cruz-is-religious-libertys-only-hope.html

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In Quest for Evangelicals, Cruz Has Encountered Headwinds

When Ted Cruz announced he was running for president on March 23, 2015, it was no accident that he chose to do so at Liberty University, a Christian college in Virginia founded 44 years ago by iconic pastor Jerry Falwell.

“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation,” Cruz declared, “and I believe God isn’t done with America yet.”

One of the central goals of Cruz’s campaign was made clear that day: consolidating support from the religious right, an ambitious undertaking made no easier as the Republican field grew to 17 candidates in the weeks following.

By most measures, the Texas senator has built the broadest support in the evangelical community of any Republican presidential candidate, and to this day he remains the top choice of the most politically engaged members of that community. Yet Cruz’s pursuit of the influential voting bloc has not been easy — and some segments remain reluctant to rally around him even as he emerges as the chief alternative to frontrunner Donald Trump.

“The term ‘evangelical’ has become very elastic in that it’s almost taken the place of ‘Protestant,'” said Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, who endorsed Cruz in January. “It almost describes any conservative who believes in God, and that’s just not what evangelical is. Look at voters who attended church on a weekly basis. Those voters are going for Ted Cruz.”
Under that definition, Perkins added, Cruz “has pretty much captured that voting bloc and increased their turnout.”

Still, no other development has complicated Cruz’s efforts to win over the faithful as much as the rise of Trump, who consistently outpolls Cruz among evangelicals despite a long list of actions, positions and statements seemingly out of step with the Christian faith. For example, it was Trump who ultimately won the endorsement of Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of the university where Cruz strategically launched his campaign.

In the 20 states so far where CNN has conducted entrance or exit polling, Trump has bested Cruz in 13 of them among voters who identify themselves as born-again or evangelical Christian, with an average margin of 18 points. Cruz has placed above Trump in six of them, with an average margin of 12 points. They tied for the group in one state, Arkansas.

Even to even some of Cruz’s supporters, the trend is not shocking: Like any voting bloc, evangelicals are not immune to national trends, and one of the most prominent at the moment is a strong aversion to Washington, D.C., and all it represents. That’s the theory of Robert Jeffress, a Dallas pastor who has spoken at Trump rallies and expressed support for the billionaire but not formally endorsed him.

“I think one of the phenomena that’s at work here is really only Donald Trump can claim outsider status compared to Cruz and Rubio,” Jeffress said in an interview earlier this month, when U.S. Sen Marco Rubio was still a candidate. “For all their talk of being outsiders, they’re still part of that elite group known as the U.S. Senate.”

“Interestingly, I think Cruz and Rubio thought the Senate would be a stepping stone to the White House,” Jeffress said. “The Senate is becoming a millstone that might keep them out of the White House.”

Cruz has tried various tactics to consolidate evangelical support. In states such as Iowa and South Carolina, he sought to recruit a supportive pastor in every county and held highly produced religious liberty rallies featuring speakers with personal tales of discrimination due to their religious beliefs. He formed a national prayer team, whose members receive weekly emails with prayer requests and participate in weekly conference calls, some of which Cruz has joined. In January, he convened hundreds of pastors and faith leaders at the West Texas ranch of Dan and Farris Wilks, two of the most generous givers to his presidential effort. And his campaign boasts of a Faith and Religious Liberty Coalition with more than 46,000 members.

Most recently, Cruz launched a 19-member Religious Liberty Advisory Council, which Perkins chairs. On Thursday, the group issued 15 initial recommendations for a Cruz administration, including an executive order to keep the federal government from discriminating based on one’s marriage beliefs and a proposal to let employers out of a federal mandate that they provide contraceptive coverage to women. Cruz’s campaign swiftly released a statement welcoming the ideas.
Perhaps the biggest validation Cruz received was his victory in Iowa, where he beat Trump by a few points overall but by 12 points among evangelicals, according to CNN exit polling. The triumph, according to Cruz’s supporters, sent a clear message to those in the evangelical community who were still uncertain of Cruz’s ability not only to win but also to unite the faithful. Cruz had the backing of arguably the two most influential social conservatives in the state, U.S. Rep. Steve King and Family Leader CEO Bobby Vander Plaats, whom he elevated to national co-chairs of his campaign a month before the caucuses.

“Winning in Iowa just brought the theory he had put forth — that he could make this happen — to reality in the minds of many who were just waiting to see,” Perkins said. “I think Iowa was very big for him.”

Yet it was also Iowa where Cruz’s campaign was accused of spreading false rumors about Ben Carson dropping out, which gave way to a drumbeat of criticism that he is running a dishonest campaign, hurting his image among evangelicals. The drumbeat was perhaps loudest in the run-up to the South Carolina primary, when he faced a battery of charges of “dirty tricks” from a number of rivals.

The storm of controversy took a toll on Cruz, whose campaign was viewed as the most unfair by nearly a third of voters in the Palmetto State, second only to Trump’s in exit polling. Cruz sought to stem the bleeding a week later when he fired Rick Tyler, his top spokesman who had shared on Twitter a video that falsely purported to show Rubio denigrating the Bible.

Trump has seized upon the dishonesty charge, routinely referring to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” — including in a tweet Tuesday that attacked the senator’s wife. In interviews and speeches, the billionaire regularly cites Cruz’s alleged dishonesty as the reason he consistently outpolls the senator among evangelicals, despite Cruz’s aggressive outreach to them.

“You don’t have to be one of us to get our vote — you just can’t lie to us,” said Hogan Gidley, a South Carolina GOP strategist who worked for one of Cruz’s former rivals, Mike Huckabee.

The former Arkansas governor, who bowed out of the race as soon as he lost Iowa, and his allies took an intense interest in Cruz in the final month before the caucuses, seeking to undercut his evangelical support. They highlighted how Cruz wants to effectively leave questions of marriage and abortion up to the states, and they suggested he had not given enough of his personal income to charity, a practice known in the church as tithing.

More privately, they spoke of Cruz as strong-arming his way into becoming the seeming consensus choice of faith leaders.

“I talk to enough pastors in South Carolina, I talk to enough pastors in Iowa, who are completely turned off by his heavy-handed tactics to try and get them to support him,” Gidley said. “It’s basically trying to pressure a pastor into believing Ted Cruz is somehow the 13th Apostle and that this country’s going to hell without him at the helm and then being upset and angry if that pastor doesn’t just sign on immediately without asking any questions.”

Cruz has encountered particular resistance from Hispanic evangelicals turned off by his positions on immigration, which have only grown more hardline as he has vied with Trump on the issue. Some drew a line when he made clearer than ever in December that he does not support any form of legalization for people in the country illegally. Since then, Cruz has positioned himself farther to the right of Trump on immigration, criticizing the billionaire for supporting the re-entry of people to the United States who have been deported.

Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, gave Cruz credit for assembling a diverse coalition of evangelical supporters but cautioned that the issue of immigration is “not going away.”

“Hispanic evangelicals are torn right now,” said Suarez, who meets occasionally with a group of other prominent Latino Republicans to discuss the presidential race. “You have Trump, who wants to build walls and deport everybody. Then you have Cruz, who wants to build walls and have everybody leave.”

“They are on the sidelines,” Suarez added. “There was a lot of Hispanic evangelical support for Rubio and for Bush. Now what do you do here?”

Going forward in the nominating process, Cruz’s side sees some uncertainty when it comes to the evangelical vote. With the senator vowing to fight Trump until the convention, many states that have previously not had much influence in picking the GOP nominee will have a say. It’s in those states, Perkins explained, that evangelicals are naturally not as politically engaged as they are, for example, in Iowa and South Carolina.

The first test could come April 5, when the next state, Wisconsin, holds its primary in what is shaping up to be another critical moment in the anti-Trump movement. Voters who identified as born-again or evangelical Christian helped propel Mitt Romney to victory in the Badger State in the previous Republican presidential primary, supporting him 47 percent to 43 percent over Rick Santorum.

“I’ll tell ya,” Cruz said while stumping there Friday, “Wisconsin is a battleground right now.”

Original article can be read here:


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Hispanic Christian leader critiques Trump on immigration

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — An Hispanic Christian leader who has met with Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush says Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration is “counterproductive,” but he doesn’t believe the GOP presidential front-runner is a racist.

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told CBN News that Trump’s reference to murderers and rapists crossing the border was “demagoguery” that misrepresents the vast majority of illegal immigrants.

Rodriguez says most of them are “actually born-again Christians committed to biblical orthodoxy or very staunch conservative Catholics.”

Rodriguez says that while he doesn’t believe Trump “has a bit of racism at all,” it’s important that illegal immigration be stopped without separating undocumented parents from their American-born children who are U.S. citizens.

Original article can be read here: http://wbt.com/hispanic-christian-leader-critiques-trump-on-immigration/

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Rev. Tony Suarez Joins Key Congressional and Evangelical Leaders to Discuss 2016 Priorities

WASHINGTONApril 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Evangelical leader Rev. Tony Suarez, executive vice president of The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC)/CONEL, the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, participated in a meeting yesterday with key House leadership including Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss the political and spiritual direction of the Republican Party.

During the meeting, Rev. Suarez addressed the importance of the Hispanic electorate in the upcoming election and the spiritual implications surrounding the immigration issue.

“The members of Congress, specifically those that profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, must prayerfully consider the spiritual implications of mass deportation, as well as the current strategies espoused by both Republican candidates,” said Suarez. “If a mass deportation of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country were to take place, it would virtually close most Hispanic churches in our country.”

In addition to Speaker Ryan, Rep. Jody Hice, Rep. Randy Hultgren, Rep. Reid Ribble, Rep. Tim Walberg, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Mark Walker attended the meeting that included key prominent religious leaders and influencers, includingRussell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Jim Garlow, senior pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego, California.

“It was an honor to join other leaders and Speaker Ryan for lunch,” said Suarez. “Their willingness to meet with faith leaders, and hear our concerns, gives me hope for what we might be able to accomplish in the future.”

Topics of conversation also focused heavily on religious liberty and the policies and tone espoused by the two front-running Republican presidential candidates.

“The 2016 election at the end of the day will determine whether or not we as Americans will continue to have religious liberty,” said Rev. Rodriguez, President of the NHCLC. “Yesterday’s meeting speaks to the sense of urgency where Christian leaders must coalesce around a prophetic and political strategy that will secure that very freedom for generations to come.”

NHCLC/CONEL is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization. It serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another hundreds of thousands of congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora.

The organization emphasizes “7 Directives” of Life, Family, Compassionate Evangelism, Stewardship, Justice, Education and Youth and seeks to reconcile Evangelist Billy Graham’s message of salvation through Christ with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’smarch of prophetic activism. For additional information, visit http://www.nhclc.org.

Original article can be read here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rev-tony-suarez-joins-key-congressional-and-evangelical-leaders-to-discuss-2016-priorities-300259850.html

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Survey Shows Evangelical Hispanics are Still Undecided

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 4, 2016 – Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, lead pastor of New Season Church in California and President/CEO of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), one of the world’s largest Latino Evangelical organizations, asked presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump to come to the table to discuss comprehensive immigration solutions, that include secure borders, but also a place for the millions of hard-working Latino immigrants who call the United States their home. NHCLC_Logo-130x89

“To date Donald Trump’s comments about immigration have been inflammatory, impractical and unhelpful,” Rodriguez said. “Now that he is the presumptive nominee, we call upon him to immediately stop rhetorical commentary he has previously used that discredits groups, including Latino immigrants, and start discussing and offering real, productive solutions for comprehensive immigration reform.”

In his victory speech following the Indiana primary, Trump spoke of reaching out to the Hispanic community. Rodriguez said now is the time to put action to his words and attempt to heal the hurt and damage his previous statements have caused.

“If Trump truly wants to make America ‘a beautiful and loving country’ then he must personally begin by treating all – black, white, Latino, male and female – as they deserve to be treated. For at the end of the day, every individual is made in the image of God and merits love and respect,” Rodriguez said.

A recent internal survey of NHCLC members highlighted an important fact: Hispanic Evangelicals are still very much up for grabs in 2016. When asked which candidate they would vote for today, no one candidate on either side of the aisle had clearly locked their support. More than one-third of the evangelical Hispanics polled claimed that no one candidate – democrat or republican – clearly represents them at this point in the race and that policy is more important than rhetoric.

“This tells us that evangelical Hispanics are still making up their minds,” said Rev. Rodriguez. “This is good news for the remaining candidates who will need their support in a general election, but will have to earn it.

“As we continue down the path in choosing our next president, may we remember that our great nation’s future depends not on one man or one woman, but rather God,” Rodriguez continued. “Now is the time to pray fervently, especially as we celebrate the National Day of Prayer tomorrow, for God to heal America and bring unity to us once again.”


Rodriguez is President of NHCLC and author of the new book, “Be Light.” NHCLC is the world’s largest Hispanic Christian organization, serving as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another hundreds of thousands of congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. For additional information, visithttp://www.nhclc.org.

Original article can be read here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rev-samuel-rodriguez-calls-for-presumptive-republican-nominee-to-get-serious-about-issues-concerning-latino-evangelicals-300262847.html

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Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Calls For Individuals To Become Beacons Of Hope This Election

SACRAMENTO, Calif.May 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, lead pastor of New Season Church in California and President/CEO of one of the world’s largest Hispanic Evangelical organizations, gives a clarion call for peace and hope amid the current political and social chaos of our world in his newest book, “Be Light: Shining God’s Beauty, Truth, and Hope into a Darkened World” (WaterBrook, ISBN: 987-1-60142-816-5).

In “Be Light,” Rodriguez acknowledges that today’s world is troubled and in many ways dark, from the current discourse and negative rhetoric of the election cycle to fears of terrorist and medical threats such as Zika. Yet, he calls for everyone – especially people of faith – to rise up and shine light with truth, love and grace.

“In these times when religious liberties are being attacked and there is great pressure for political correctness instead of biblical truths, the Church needs to rise up in all of life’s arenas and become ‘the bright city on a hill,'” writes Rodriguez.

“Be Light” addresses the darkness of hatred, polarization, cultural decadence, religious persecution, disregard for human life and racial tension that currently abound in our nation and presents a timely message in this current political season for people of faith to stand for biblical truth.

“During this presidential campaign we have seen, time and again, vicious personal attacks by political candidates on the character of others, and discussions on issues vital to our nation, such as immigration, religious liberty and the Supreme Court, continue to play out in uncivil and often hatred manners,” said Rodriguez. “It is easy to want to throw your hands in the air and give up on America, but at the end of the day, instead of cursing the darkness, instead of whining about the darkness, instead of complaining about the darkness – why not turn on the light? That’s my call, let’s be light.”

Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves as a representative voice for the more than 100 million Hispanic Evangelicals assembled in over 40,000 U.S. churches and another 500,000 congregations spread throughout the Spanish-speaking diaspora. A number of media outlets, such as CNN and Fox News Channel have deemed him as one of America’s leading Christian and Latino voices, and Newsmax recently included him in the “Top 100 Christian Leaders in America.”

But while Rodriguez represents a Hispanic demographic that both pundits and politicians on both sides of the aisle have determined are key to winning the presidency, “Be Light” shares a message for all Americans.

“We cannot deny we live in dark times…sin, immorality, moral relativism, infanticide, racism, false prophets, watered-down preaching, religious extremism, terror, violence intolerance and disbelief,” Rodriguez opines.  “But, when light stands next to darkness, light always wins.”

“Be Light” has been endorsed by a number of leaders including: Dr. Ronnie Floyd, president, Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church; Robert Morrison, founding senior pastor at Gateway Church; and James Robison, founder and president of LIFE Outreach International. The foreword to the book was written by Roma Downey, producer, celebrated actress and president and chief content officer at LightWorkers Media (a division of MGM Studios).

For more information, visit http://www.BeLightBook.com.

Original post can be read here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/rev-samuel-rodriguez-calls-for-individuals-to-become-beacons-of-hope-this-election-300262055.html

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