WATCH: Trump Talks Religious Liberty — And Meets a Surprise Guest

Speaking on Monday at an event hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC, Donald Trump fielded a question from a retired chaplain asking what he would do as president to halt the ongoing erosion of military members’ religious liberty. During his answer, Trump began to address the case of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired after leading pre-game prayers with his team, when — lo and behold — he discovered that the coach, Joe Kennedy, was also in attendance at the event.

After hearing the full story of Kennedy’s firing (which he called “outrageous”), Trump proceeded to remark on the importance of religious liberty and reiterated his plan to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

You can watch Trump’s full answer and read the transcript below:

…Religious liberty. Hey, it’s about religious liberty. And there has to be a melding of both. We’re living in a time where you have to have a melding of both. But it’s very unfair what they’re doing to religion in this country.

And, you know, one of the things that I’m doing, and we’re — we have the Johnson Amendment, you know what that is? Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s passed an amendment because, supposedly, he was having a hard time with a church in Houston, with a pastor. And he passed an amendment saying, basically, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a religious person, you cannot get up and talk politics. You cannot really — here’s a prime example of it. You know how strongly I feel about it.

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“Connecticut Avenue” Is Back: Second Episode of The Pulse’s New Podcast

Last week we launched Connecticut Avenue, the official podcast of The Pulse 2016. Today’s episode, our second, is hosted by Jon Schweppe, contributing editor to The Pulse 2016, and Kevin Dawson, a frequent contributor to The Pulse 2016.

Schweppe and Dawson touched on a number of topics today, including last week’s debate between Trump and Clinton (0:00), tonight’s VP debate between Pence and Kaine (6:00), Planned Parenthood’s 100th anniversary (7:30), the Hyde Amendment (12:00), Illinois’s anti-life, anti-religious freedom law (16:15), and Trump’s proposal to repeal the Johnson Amendment (23:30).

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Trump Wants Pastors to Speak Out on Politics… But Can They?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Last June, I attended Donald Trump’s “secret meeting” with social conservatives in New York City. I was impressed then, and I continue to remain impressed with his commitment to the most important issues facing our country.

Unlike many Republican candidates who simply check the boxes when talking to social conservatives — yes, I’m pro-life; yes, I support religious liberty — Trump got creative and offered the out-of-the-box idea of repealing the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” a move few in the religious liberty movement had been actively pursuing.

The Johnson Amendment was introduced by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson in 1954 and passed into law. The amendment changed the U.S. tax code to block some tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from wading into politics and supporting one candidate over another. While the IRS hasn’t used its authority to strip churches that engage in politics of their tax-exempt statuses as of yet, the fact that the policy exists as law has been enough to intimidate many religious leaders away from preaching politics from the pulpit at all.

At the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., last month, Trump again pledged to repeal the Johnson Amendment if he wins.

Via CNN:

“The Johnson Amendment has blocked our pastors and ministers and others from speaking their minds from their own pulpits,” he said at the Values Voter Summit last month.

“If they want to talk about Christianity, if they want to preach, if they want to talk about politics, they’re unable to do so.

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Are Donald Trump and Republicans Getting Serious About Religious Liberty?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Since beginning his 2016 presidential run last year, Donald Trump has not always appeared to have the strongest grasp on the issue of religious liberty. However, if his recent actions are any indication, that may be quickly changing.

Most noteworthy was a statement Trump released last week vowing to defend religious freedom as president and, particularly, to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), backing up a pledge he made last December in a letter to the American Principles Project:

Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy. If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths. The Little Sisters of the Poor, or any religious order for that matter, will always have their religious liberty protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.

These promises will no doubt be seen as a welcome development to conservative Christians unsure about Trump, and his recent comments have even won him grudging approval from one of his most ardent conservative opponents, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), FADA’s prime Senate sponsor:

Lee told National Review Online that Trump would be likely to protect religious freedom more effectively than Hillary Clinton would.

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Pence in Iowa: “Donald Trump Will Advance the Cause of Life”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in Iowa this weekend where he addressed social conservatives at the annual Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner. During his remarks, Pence reiterated his full confidence in Donald Trump and made the case for Trump’s candidacy as a response to the increasing threats to Americans’ fundamental liberties:

“For the sake of the sanctity of life and all of our God-given liberties, Iowa let’s ensure that the next president making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is president Donald Trump,” Pence said to a standing ovation. “In these challenging times, Donald Trump will stand for the freedoms enshrined in all of us, including the freedom of religion.”

Pence, who opened with his trademark introduction of describing himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” described Trump as a man motivated by his faith and family.

“We both come from the same place: a foundation of faith, family, and a belief in the boundless potential of the American people,” Pence said.

Pence said he thinks Trump’s candidacy has tapped into a movement that he said is “stirring across America.”

“After years of more government, more taxes and condescending attitudes toward traditional values unfurling out of Washington, D.C., toward people of faith all across Iowa and all across this country by the millions, the hinge of history is swinging in the direction of faith and freedom, and I literally see it every day,” Pence said.

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Trump: “Without Religious Liberty You Don’t Have Liberty”

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Earlier this week, Donald Trump was interviewed by the Charisma Podcast Network’s Steve Strang on a number of important election topics, including religious liberty. During their discussion, Trump reiterated his strong support for religious liberty as well as his promise to repeal the Johnson Amendment, a law which has had a chilling effect on religious leaders’ ability to speak out politically:

STRANG: Evangelicals and Catholics have been under attack from the Obama administration for their pro-life convictions and their desire to be left alone [inaudible] that which violates their biblical views on marriage. How can you reassure them that you will respect religious liberty?

TRUMP: Well, I think that — I even mentioned it in my speech — that religious liberty is the foundation. Without religious liberty you don’t have liberty. And I feel that so strong. And so many other people do, except they don’t express it. And plenty of politicians do, but they don’t express it. So religious liberty is something I find that I cherish, and you will never be disappointed.

STRANG: When you met with evangelical leaders, you said that you would support repealing the Johnson Amendment, so that churches and ministries could maintain tax exemption. [Crosstalk] How will you do it?

TRUMP: Well, it all started very early on. Well, no, actually starting — if you want to know the truth, I started it already because I put it in the platform. It’s in the platform. A lot of people didn’t even know what it was.

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