The sun rises behind the steeple of a church, Aug. 23, 2015, in Plains, Ga.
Photo by David Goldman/AP

Dobson walks back claims about Trump’s born-again conversion

Just when it seemed the 2016 presidential race couldn’t possibly offer any more surprises, James Dobson said Donald Trump recently became a born-again Christian. The religious right leader said he knew the individual who led Trump to this spiritual conversion, and Trump has come to “accept a relationship with Christ.”
 
The Republican presidential candidate, Dobson added, should now be considered “a baby Christian.”
 
If true, this would represent quite a dramatic shift for Trump, a thrice-married adulterer who owned casinos and seems to know effectively nothing about religion. As we talked about the other day, I can’t think of any major-party nominee in American history who’s changed his or her religious beliefs this dramatically during a presidential campaign.
 
It was of interest, then, when Dobson walked back his comments yesterday. TPM reported:
While Dobson characterized Trump at the time as a “baby Christian,” he seemed more circumspect about the New York real estate mogul’s newfound faith in a statement released Monday to the Christian publication Charisma News.
 
“Only the Lord knows the condition of a person’s heart. I can only tell you what I’ve heard,” Dobson said. “First, Trump appears to be tender to things of the Spirit. I also hear that Paula White has known Trump for years and that she personally led him to Christ.”
“Do I know that for sure? No,” Dobson added. “Do I know the details of that alleged conversion? I can’t say that I do.”
 
Televangelist Paula White, incidentally, is the senior pastor at the New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board. Paula White Ministries’ business practices were investigated by the Senate Finance Committee, though no charges were ever filed.
 
So far, Trump has not commented publicly on whether or not Dobson’s comments are accurate.
 
On a related note, the presumptive Republican nominee also had literally nothing to say about the Supreme Court’s ruling this week on abortion rights, and some of Trump’s new evangelical friends aren’t pleased with his reticence. Slate reported yesterday:
“I think it gives all pro-life leaders pause,” Bob Vander Plaats, an influential Iowa evangelical, told the Daily Beast on Tuesday, when the silence was a mere 26 hours old. “I think it gives all people that are looking for life as their issue, who are looking to support a presidential candidate – it gives them an unnecessary pause.”
 
“Unnecessary” indeed. Fervent anti-abortion voters see Hillary Clinton as a woman who openly celebrates the killing of children. It should not be hard for a Republican – even one who once claimed to be “very pro-choice” – to make himself look like the friendlier option for pro-lifers than the candidate endorsed by Planned Parenthood. And it would be foolish for Trump to underestimate the transcendent importance of the issue to his base. A 2012 poll found that 28 percent of Republican voters said they could not vote for a presidential candidate who did not agree with them on abortion.
 
So a quick tweet condemning Monday’s Supreme Court decision should be a no-brainer for a candidate hoping to shore up support among religious conservatives. Instead, the campaign has whiffed.
Incidents like these keep piling up and take their toll on a campaign.
 
 

Donald Trump, Religion and Religious Right

Dobson walks back claims about Trump's born-again conversion