On Thursday this week, 700 pastors and their spouses are scheduled to attend a closed-door meeting in Florida with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. It should be a friendly audience as polls continue to show that Trump holds a solid lead among white evangelical voters.

The private gathering is sponsored by the American Renewal Project, who have announced that

Donald Trump is planning a surprise visit Thursday to a major gathering of evangelical pastors in Florida, where he will describe how he will repeal a federal law viewed by many Christians as gagging the clergy from expressing political viewpoints.


It is not entirely clear what the nature of the “surprise” will be.

He is apparently meeting with the pastors to inform them of his winning strategy for capturing the Whitehouse in November, which includes:

the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 change to the federal tax code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations like churches from endorsing or advocating the defeat of political candidates.


But according to the American Renewal Project’s founder David Lane, this alone will not satisfy the assembled Christian leaders. Mr. Lane has a slightly longer shopping list for his preferred presidential candidate. Lane asks,

But what about the religious liberty of Christian photographers, Christian bakers, Christian retreat centers, and pastors who believe same-sex intercourse and marriage is sin? These Christians were simply living out their deeply held convictions of their Christian faith when they politely refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding. Doesn’t the First Amendment give us all a right to our beliefs?

Lane concludes with the complaint that

Homosexual totalitarianism is out of the closet, the militants are trying herd Christians there.


So international diplomatic relations are of no concern. The world refugee crisis is irrelevant. Poverty and gun violence at home are not interesting. The environment is not important.  Even the economy doesn’t really appear to be of much concern.

Apparently what really matters to the good pastors who will be bringing their moral authority to bear on Mr. Trump on Thursday is that churches should be free to push upon their parishioners whatever bizarre political ideologies they choose while remaining free from providing tax support to the government. Oh, and of course there is that nasty little business of religious persecution because a beleaguered baker might be forced to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

How did the far right political agenda ever become so self-serving and myopic? How have church leaders slipped so far into unreality that they appear to be willing to overlook the dangerous qualities that appear more and more evident every day in the candidate they are planning to place in the highest office in the land?

Seriously, how do these church leaders even begin to reconcile themselves to a candidate who has been married three times, has never been a regular church attender, is unfamiliar with the Bible, has publicly claimed that he has never asked God for forgiveness, has changed his stance on abortion several times, and has flipflopped on Iraq:

This is not even to mention his frequently belligerent, angry demeanour.

One can only hope that the surprise at Thursdays meeting of the American Renewal Project will be that when the time actually comes, there may be no one in the audience to cheer on Mr. Trump.