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Mike Pence defends Trump at Liberty University amid evangelical debate

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, speaks during a rally in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jason Miczek
Indiana Governor Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, speaks during a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, on October 10, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jason Miczek

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, speaks during a rally in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 10, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Jason Miczek

(RNS) Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence urged forgiveness for Donald Trump Wednesday (Oct. 12) at Liberty University as evangelical outcry increased in volume over the weekend release of a 2005 video in which Trump is heard making lewd remarks.

“It’s not about condemning what is said and done. It’s about believing in grace and forgiveness,” Pence said at the Lynchburg, Va., school, headed by prominent Christian conservative and Trump backer Jerry Falwell Jr.


RELATED: After lewd tape release, Ralph Reed lays out evangelical case for Trump


Pence’s Convocation speech, in which he freely shared his testimony as an evangelical Christian, comes two days after Faith & Freedom Coalition leader Ralph Reed laid out the evangelical case for Trump at the largest weekly gathering of Christian students in North America.

Pence touched on many of the same issues Reed had, including the Republican ticket’s opposition to abortion and Trump’s pledges to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices and revisit the Iran nuclear deal.

“Men and women of faith cannot choose to stand idly by in this great national debate,” Pence said.

On Monday, the vice presidential candidate had spoken out for the first time about Trump’s remarks about an attempted affair with a married woman and about grabbing women by their genitals.

A number of Republicans rescinded their support for Trump after that video emerged, with some even suggesting Pence replace him on the ticket.

A wave of repudiation followed from evangelical Christians, including Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; theologian Wayne Grudem, who previously had called Trump a “good candidate with flaws”; and a member of Trump’s own evangelical advisory board, Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in suburban Chicago.

Flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today published an editorial denouncing Trump, and conservative Christian publication World Magazine joined the call for the Republican nominee to withdraw from the race.


RELATED: 10 conservative Christians who are not supporting Trump


Yet others — like Falwell and Reed — doubled down in their support of Trump.

James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family and Family Life Today, also stood by his endorsement of the Republican nominee, despite having condemned Hillary Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, for his affair with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

In a statement released Tuesday, Dobson quoted Scripture — “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” — and said he was “more concerned about America’s future than Donald Trump’s past.”

He continued:

“To my knowledge, Donald Trump has never abused women physically or had oral sex in the Oval Office with a vulnerable intern. Nor has he committed perjury by lying to Congress for many hours. Clinton, on the other hand, lost his license to practice law for that criminal act. Trump hasn’t been impeached by Congress for his lies. Donald Trump hasn’t vetoed bills that would have outlawed the procedure known as partial-birth abortion. Bill Clinton alone is responsible for the brains being sucked out of unanesthetized babies during delivery. That naziesque procedure continued for years until the Supreme Court declared it illegal. Donald Trump is pro-life. Clinton and his wife disrespect the Constitution of the United States, although Trump has promised to protect it, especially the First Amendment. Shall I go on?”

Pence said Wednesday that his evangelical Christian faith teaches him “we all fall short” and calls believers to “forgive even as we have been forgiven” — and that his running mate showed “humility” in his apology during the second presidential debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

But the vice presidential nominee and Indiana governor seemed less forgiving of Clinton, demanding an apology for a 2011 email exchange made public by WikiLeaks the night before.

In the emails, Clinton campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri reportedly wrote that conservatives chose the Catholic faith because it is the “most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they become evangelicals.”

Clinton opponents have denounced those comments and others that emerged from the leaked emails.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Pence, who was raised Catholic.

“If only on behalf of her Catholic running mate, Hillary Clinton should denounce those bigoted, anti-Catholic, anti-evangelical remarks, and her campaign staff should apologize to people of faith and do it now.”

Trump’s poll numbers have been flagging since the release of the video — a new Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of likely voter has him trailing Clinton by 8 points — and shoring up the Republican party’s white evangelical base is seen as critical to his chances for success in next month’s election.

About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

25 Comments

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  • Pence repeatedly claimed that Trumpelstiltskin’s never said what he totally said. He’s the last person I would ask anything

  • Actually, he was referring to one of those parallel universes where things turn out differently than in ours. Over there Trump is winning.

  • For someone who, like all Christianists, claims to despise “moral relativity,” Pence sure relishes in it! Where his running mate is concerned, he’s all about “grace and forgiveness.” But where, praytell, is the “grace and forgiveness” for those across the aisle? Hmm?

    There’s definitely a whole heap of “moral relativity” here. Morals are fungible, even ignored, for one’s ideological colleagues, but are “absolute” and cannot be dismissed, for the opposing ideology.

    Pence, and any and all other Christianists who continue embracing little Donnie, are brazen hypocrites. It’s really just as simple as that. Even though their religion’s holy scripture explicitly forbids them ever to be hypocritical. They need to stick crowbars into the Bibles they long ago slammed and locked shut, and read it. All of it. Including passages such as Mt 7:5 and Lk 6:42.

  • Sing a song of sex, Pence
    Covering your eyes
    Trump and plenty women
    “P***y” surprise!

    When The Donald’s groping
    You grab the mike and sing
    Isn’t that a righteous way
    To kneel before your King?

  • “Brazen”! I’ve been searching my mind for months trying to recall that word. Somehow it got Trumped by “craven”. I’m so glad you used it, PsyCop — and used it so effectively (and illustratively). I feel almost whole again!

  • Pence may not be as vulgar or sexed-up as Trump, but he is just as despicable. Defending Trump is indefensible. And as governor of Indiana Pence has repeated;y shown that he despises women’s rights of conscience and religious liberty on abortion, and thumbs his nose at the public schools serving 90% of our kids by vigorously supporting the diversion of public funds to special interest church-run private schools. On that last point Pence is giving the finger to Article I, Sections 4 and 6 of the Indiana constitution. Pence was also likely to lose his reelection bid before he accepted Trump’s invitation to join Trump’s ticket. It is funny that Trump, who regularly slams “losers” would pick a loser like Pence to run with him. — Edd Doerr

  • I see 2 big bonuses arising from this election that aren’t dependent on counting votes.

    1. The disarray in the Republican party will hopefully result in a realignment to the traditional moderate Republicanism of Nixon, Eisenhower, and, sorta, Reagan.

    2. Evangelical whites will let go of trying to force their religious understanding on the nation and return to being Christians, rather than militant Christianists.

  • Its not like Pence gave a damn about women anyway. The guy enacted the most repugnant abortion restrictions outside of Texas. There is a woman serving in prison for having a miscarriage thanks to Pence. So why would he care about his running mate’s sexual assault ?

    For Pence, this is his last shot at political relevance. He was more or less run out of Indiana for his own foibles. This is all he has left.

  • ” It does help that Pence has no skeletons in the closet.”

    That was a joke, right?

    Pence has more skeletons in his closet than The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland:
    1. His refusal to grant a pardon to a person proven to be wrongfully convicted by new evidence
    2. A woman serving a prison sentence for having a miscarriage due to abortion restrictions Pence enacted
    3. The attempt to institute Jim Crow 2.0 against gays and the dishonest backtracking from it
    4. His attacks on public schooling

  • Calling on Christians to forgive Trump and have grace, but throw Hillary in jail? Be consistent and forgive her too, then we can get back to their stands on the issues, and she can STILL trounce Trump. Bunch of sleezy hypocrites.

  • “It’s not about condemning what is said and done. It’s about believing in grace and forgiveness.”

    No, Pence, it isn’t. After all, what has Trump done to me or mine that would require my forgiveness? That’s between Trump, the women he assaulted, and God. Rather, it’s about discernment:

    “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

  • There could be a really important reason why Jerry Falwell, Jr. is stubbornly clinging to Trump: his school receives more federal student aid than any other school in America (public or private). A President Trump will keep that money flowing. Liberty U enrolls tons of thousands of online student (think Trump University with a Bible), which brings liberty a boatload of federal dollars.

    A President Clinton would probably look at all that federal money going to a fundamentalist religious school that discriminates against LGBT people and conclude it’s not legal.

  • American Pharisee 2016

    Throw him in the big boy pond
    Watch him thraw about
    Pretend he knows just how to swim
    Ignore that ling’ring doubt.

    Conscience screaming otherwise
    O ignore that spirit’s song
    Take off your vest and dive right in
    Insist others come along.

    Wear his death whene’er it comes
    I will call you to account
    Why when he looked right at you
    You pointed no weakness out.

    Bravado, pride, such arrogance
    Thin armor in any war
    Your human shield as battles rage
    No clue which way the shore.

    Console yourself – for he’s a man
    Forceful, bold, and sure
    But you’ve been given eyes that see
    On you this guilt secured.
    kelleyrenz, http://www.poeticcommentary.com
    Evangelicals who support Trump will be held accountable.

  • does he defend trump’s sexualizing his daughters too? how about his marrying a porn-star, or is that part of his Hosea experience (Hos: 3: 1-4)

  • Yes forgive everyone, what they said and did. Let everyone out of jail to. Disclaimer: I can’t be held accountable for anything I say or do.

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