First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a political event evangelical leaders are organizing, which theoretically could cause some discomfort for Donald Trump. NPR had this report yesterday.
As allegations continue to swirl about the president and a payout to a porn star to cover up a sexual encounter, evangelical leaders are organizing a sit-down with President Trump in June, four sources with knowledge of the planned meeting tell NPR.
"We're very concerned" about the allegations, said a leader of a faith-based ministry. The leader is involved in hosting the gathering, which organizers are aiming to take place June 19 at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The source said the combination of the Stormy Daniels sex-scandal allegations and Trump's continued reputation for divisive rhetoric could suppress evangelical turnout in the November midterm elections.
Organizers are reportedly coordinating the schedule for the event with the White House, with the expectation that invitations will then go out to "hundreds of conservative Christian pastors and political leaders in the coming days." The president would, according to the plan, not only attend the gathering but also field questions from evangelical leaders in attendance for roughly 90 minutes.
One of NPR's sources said, "It is a concern of ours that 2018 could be very detrimental to some of the other issues that we hold dear."
What's surprising to me is the fact that some politically active conservative evangelicals would consider such a meeting necessary. A month ago, for example, far-right megachurch leader Robert Jeffress, cognizant of the Stormy Daniels scandal, effectively gave his presidential ally as a pass.
"Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star," Jeffress said in early March. "However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him.... Evangelicals knew they weren't voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump."
So which is it? It apparently depends which politically active conservative evangelicals you ask. NPR spoke to a "very concerned" leader of a faith-based ministry, but as Right Wing Watch noted yesterday, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, who's reportedly helping organize the June gathering, appeared on a conservative radio talk show and questioned the premise of NPR's report.
"At no point in the conversations that we've had organizing this ... [was there any] discussion at all about doing this to have a confrontational meeting with the president," Perkins said. "It is not going to be a confrontational meeting with the president. That is just absolutely not true because that's not what we are hearing. It might be what the media wants to take place, but it's not going to happen."
Of course, if Trump has any reason to believe this might become "a confrontational meeting," organizers should consider the possibility that he won't show up.
Also from the God Machine this week: