WASHINGTON — After sweeping the primary field in many evangelical-heavy Southern states, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump will meet with major evangelical leaders in New York City on June 21.
Formal invitations will be sent out on Monday, confirmed a spokesman for the Family Research Council, JP Duffy. The meeting is an attempt to secure support from social conservatives, according to Fox News, which first reported on the meeting Saturday.
The gathering presents an opportunity for Trump to generate support from social conservatives ahead of November, as many have been struggling to understand Trump’s approach to their favored issues. That includes abortion, which Trump now says he opposes keeping legal after previously holding different positions.
Also a high priority for evangelicals: Supreme Court appointments. President Barack Obama’s choice for an open seat, Merrick Garland, remains in limbo with Senate Republicans refusing to consider his nomination. So the next president could have a Supreme Court appointment waiting in January 2017.
Trump performed well in many Southern states, despite former GOP primary rival Sen. Ted Cruz’s efforts to rally the evangelical vote.
The June 21 confab will be the highest-profile but hardly the first effort by Trump’s campaign to court evangelicals. On Saturday it aired a video aimed at appealing to evangelical Christian Hispanics, at the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. However, the video did not mention religion, and instead presented how his immigration proposals would benefit Hispanics.
Trump has had an uneven relationship with some evangelical leaders. Shortly after kicking off his campaign nearly a year ago Trump discussed his faith and forgiveness, at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa.
“I’m a religious person,” Mr. Trump told the heavy evangelical crowd. “I go to church. Do I do things that are wrong? I guess so.”
He also raised eyebrows by saying of his religious practices, “When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker — I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness.”