Trump Says He Would Remove Restrictions on Religious Non-profits Endorsing Candidates

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee tells conservative Christians it would be his 'greatest contribution to Christianity' to allow them to openly speak about political endorsements.

Trump speaks at the Trump Soho Hotel in New York on June 22, 2016.
Kena Betancur, AFP

JTA - Donald Trump told conservative Christians he would work to remove restrictions on churches endorsing political candidates.

“I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions — is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,” Trump told the group of conservative Christian leaders on Tuesday.

Speaking at his corporate headquarters in New York, the real estate magnate and presumptive Republican presidential nominee told the group that restrictions placed in the 1960s on explicit political endorsement by tax exempt groups inhibited free speech.

“It’s taken a lot of power away from Christianity and other religions,” he said, in an audio recording obtained by the Washington Post.

A number of major Jewish groups, led particularly by the Reform movement, oppose direct political participation in the political process, arguing that it breaches church-state separations. Conservatives deride the restrictions, saying they are often honored in the breech by both parties, noting get-out-the-vote drives in black churches, where Democrats are favored, as an example.

At the same meeting, Trump said he would protect Israel should he be elected. “I can’t imagine that Bibi likes Obama so much,” Breitbart News quoted him as saying, referring to tense relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama. He said that Obama’s actions, including a retreat from involvement in Iraq, had empowered Iran. Trump has separately said that he opposes U.S. intervention in the Middle East, especially in Iraq.

Separately, Jewish Insider reported on Tuesday that Trump blasted the Obama administration for allowing Boeing to sell parts to Iran for civilian aircraft. The Obama administration argues that the sale is permissible under the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal between six major world powers and Iran. The deal’s critics say it is a violation.

“Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, would not have been allowed to enter into these negotiations with Boeing without Clinton’s disastrous Iran Nuclear Deal,” Jewish Insider quoted the Trump campaign as saying. The Trump statement noted past Boeing contributions to campaigns by the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

The newsletter noted that Trump has previously argued that the Iran deal should have allowed U.S. companies – like Boeing – to trade with Iran.