Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Winner Aviation in Youngstown, Ohio March 14, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The next president of the United States must protect “freedom of religion,” particularly the rights of Christian Americans, Donald Trump said in a speech on the topic on Friday.
His remarks to the nonprofit Faith and Freedom Coalition in the US capital were an opportunity for the candidate to outline some of his red-meat conservative positions: His commitment to fight abortion laws, his opposition to Islamic extremism and his intent to bring decisions on education back to the local level.
But the speech also marked yet another moment of concern among opponents of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who question the candidate’s commitment to the freedom and rights of all peoples.
Touching briefly on foreign policy, Trump called the international nuclear deal reached with Iran last year “truly one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen negotiated,” a position he has often repeated throughout the campaign cycle.
“We must continue to forge our partnership with Israel and work to ensure Israel’s security,” he added.
Reading from a teleprompter, Trump seemed to vacillate between emphasizing the need to respect diversity and elevating Christian communities and values to an exceptional plane.
“No one should be judged by their race or their color, and the color of their skin should not be judged that way,” Trump said, amid controversy over criticisms of a judge overseeing a lawsuit against him. Trump believes the American judge of Mexican descent has an inherent conflict of interest due to his campaign pledge to build a wall along the US southern border.
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“Right now we have a very divided nation,” he added. “We’re going to bring our nation together.”
Trump concluded his remarks vowing to “work together to rebuild and restore and lift up everyone – not a certain group, everyone. The whole country.”
But he also said: “We will restore faith to its proper mantle in our society. That’s what we have to do, and we have to do that soon. We will respect and defend Christian Americans – Christian Americans.”
Several US rabbis, from Reform to Orthodox, chose Trump’s speech as the moment to publicly criticize him.
Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, senior rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation, Washington’s largest Conservative synagogue, decried “the words of hatred and bigotry, the demagoguery, the dehumanizing, the promises of discrimination and oppression that characterize the campaign of Donald Trump.”
And Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Sholom, the oldest Orthodox synagogue in Washington, joined Steinlauf in condemnation.
“This gathering takes place on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot which celebrates the giving of the Torah,” Herzfeld said, of the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. “The first chapter of the Torah reminds us that all men and women are created equally in the image of God. Men and women of faith should indeed form a coalition to denounce the racism and bigotry that Trump spews forth and inspires.”sign up to our newsletter
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