Evangelical rift intensifies over Trump immigration remarks

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Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks about why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and Africa have spotlighted the bitter divide among American evangelicals about his presidency.

While some of his evangelical backers expressed support for his leadership, other conservative Christians are calling the president racist and say church leaders had a moral imperative to condemn him.

“Your pro-life argument rings hollow if you don’t have an issue with this xenophobic bigotry,” tweeted pastor Earon James of Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida.

Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in the 2016 election. But recent polls show some weakening in that support, with 61 percent approving of his job performance, compared with 78 percent last February, according to the Pew Research Center.

Still, conservative Christians remain as polarized as ever over his leadership.

Many evangelical leaders who defended him in the past would not comment on Trump’s remarks to a group of senators. A few offered some criticism. Pastor Ronnie Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was “not good” to devalue any person.

Johnnie Moore, a public relations executive and a leader among Trump’s evangelical advisers, said the reports of what Trump said were “absolutely suspect and politicized.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who attended the Oval Office meeting Thursday, and peopled briefed on the conversation said Trump did make the comments as reported: He questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who Durbin said objected to Trump’s remarks at that time, did not dispute Durbin’s description.

Pastor Mark Burns from South Carolina remained skeptical, but said if the remarks…

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