Trump wins over Evangelicals with pledge to restore their freedom of speech

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In a gathering with 900 evangelical pastors and leaders Tuesday, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump promised that he would protect the political speech and religious freedom of pastors and clergy by repealing a longstanding ban on church and nonprofit politicking. …

Trump vowed to end a ban enacted in the Johnson Amendment of 1954 that punishes churches and other 501(c) tax-exempt nonprofit organizations by stripping them of their tax-exempt status if they engage in political activities or endorse candidates for public office. …

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road To Majority" conference in Washington, on June 10, 2016. / Joshua Roberts, Reuters

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road To Majority” conference in Washington, on June 10, 2016. / Joshua Roberts, Reuters

Former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas Jack Graham attended the closed-door gathering and was excited to hear Trump’s “pretty brand new” idea to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

“That is a very interesting and intriguing idea,” Graham told The Christian Post. “He has been studying this and he has been wondering why so many pastors and churches are so hesitant to speak. He realized the Lyndon Johnson law that churches are threatened with their tax-exempt status if they cross the line regarding political endorsements. He said, ‘That’s wrong.’ He said, ‘We need to get rid of that.'”

Graham said Trump’s vow to protect the political speech of churches and pastors surprised many in attendance. “That is pretty brand new. I think that surprised a lot of people but it pleased a lot of people as well.” Graham explained. “He gets it. I think more and more, one of the reasons we got together was so that we can get him and what he is about more up close and personal and that he would get us. I think we all walked away as friends.”

Graham said that he and other pastors he talked to are ready to “champion Donald Trump” after hearing him speak on religious liberty and vow to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court.

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