CLEVELAND - During his acceptance speech Thursday, businessman Donald J. Trump credited Christian evangelicals with helping him obtain him the GOP's 2016 presidential nomination.
At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community because I’ll tell you what, the support they’ve given me, and I’m not sure I totally deserve it, has been so awesome and has had such a big reason for me being here tonight. True, so true.
Trump then focused on an issue evangelicals have conveyed to him as their top issue:
They have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.
An amendment which, by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views. I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans.
Earlier in the day Dr. James Dobson, of Focus on the Family fame, endorsed Trump and earlier in the evening prominent Trump supporter Jerry Falwell Jr of Liberty University spoke on Trump's behalf.
“I have decided to endorse Donald J. Trump for President of the United States, not only because of my great concern about Hillary Clinton. I am supporting Mr. Trump primarily because I believe he is the most capable candidate to lead the United States of America in this complicated hour,” Dobson said in a statement issued Thursday.
Dobson said he is “very enthusiastic” about Indiana governor Mike Pence being Trump's his running mate, and he was encouraged by Trump''s promise to “appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, preserve religious liberty, rebuild the military, and defend the sanctity of human life.”
Nearly 80% of white evangelicals support Trump, according to the Pew Research Center.
Falwell said Donald Trump helped counsel Liberty University when it was going through financial hard times, and believes his management skills will guide America out of its burdensome debt.
He pointed to Trump's commitment to loosening IRS rules to allow churches more leeway in politics without facing fines.
"A vote for Donald Trump is a vote to uphold the Second Amendment right to bear arms," Falwell told the RNC Convention delegates, "A vote to appoint conservative pro-life justices to the Supreme Court."
Trump did not mention the abortion issue in his acceptance speech, but he did specifically reach out to the "LGBTQ" community, whose efforts to expand rights frequently collide with the evangelical's emphasis on maintaining religious liberties.