Meet Donald Trump’s New Evangelical Advisory Board

Pastor Joshua Nink, right, prays for Donald Trump in January. CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG
Pastor Joshua Nink, right, prays for Donald Trump in January. CREDIT: (AP PHOTO/JAE C. HONG

Shortly after Donald Trump concluded his closed-door meeting with more than 900 evangelical Christian leaders on Tuesday, his campaign unveiled the businessman’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, listing the names of 25 right-wing Christian leaders tasked with advising the presumptive Republican presidential nominee on spiritual matters.

Many of those listed hail from Trump’s tight circle of wealthy friends who preach the so-called prosperity gospel, an American Christian movement that teaches followers they can become rich through belief and donating to their church and pastor. But the exact role and influence of the list remains unclear, and the Trump campaign noted that board members were not asked to endorse him — they are only required to provide the candidate with counsel.

“The formation of the board represents Donald J. Trump’s endorsement of those diverse issues important to Evangelicals and other Christians, and his desire to have access to the wise counsel of such leaders as needed,” the campaign’s statement read.

In fact, many of the members have actively criticized Trump in recent weeks. When eight organizers of yesterday’s meeting — some of whom are listed below — were asked if any of them were ready to endorse Trump, none raised their hands.

Here is the list of his advisers, with a few facts thrown in for context.

Michele Bachmann prays with her husband in 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Michele Bachmann prays with her husband in 2012. CREDIT: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Michele Bachmann

A former Minnesota congresswoman and champion of the Tea Party, Right Wing Watch notes that Bachmann’s theological views include arguing that the September 11 terrorist attacks were the result of God judging America, positing that homosexuality is “part of Satan,” and arguing that those who fight for LGBT rights are bringing about a Biblical apocalypse. She also believes that God will repeal the Affordable Care Act, that the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium were an instance of God mocking Barack Obama, and that God told her to introduce a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota.

A.R. Bernard

An African American megachurch pastor in New York City, Bernard heads up the 37,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn. Bernard was openly critical of Trump’s spirituality as recently as May, when he decried prosperity gospel preaching by saying, “I do not subscribe to the notion that somehow, wealth and spirituality are tied together because if that was true then someone like Donald Trump would be considered very spiritual.”

Mark Burns

A surrogate for Trump on the campaign trial, Burns is an African American prosperity gospel preacher.

Asked in November if he thought Trump was racist, Burns responded, “Mr. Trump is not racist. He’s probably the most least racist person there is. But he’s got to tone down certain languages that can easily be interpreted as racial slurs.”

He also declared at a Trump rally that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who identifies as a Jew but who says he is “not very religious,” should convert to Christianity.

“Bernie Sanders, who doesn’t believe in God,” Burns said. “How in the world are we going to let Bernie — I mean, really? Listen, Bernie gotta get saved. He gotta meet Jesus.”

Tim Clinton

Clinton is president of the 50,000-member American Association of Christian Counselors, which advises members to “not condone or advocate for the pursuit of or active involvement in homosexual, bisexual or transgendered behaviors and lifestyles.” The group amended its code of ethics in 2014 to advise against so-called “ex-gay” conversion therapy, instructing counselors to encourage LGBT people to remain celibate instead.

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland

As co-founders of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, the Copelands are widely recognized as prosperity gospel preachers. After Kenneth Copeland hosted then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on their television program in 2008 and allowed the former governor to hold a fundraiser using his facilities, their organization’s tax-exempt status was subjected to a federal investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, then chaired by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Five other churches were also investigated during that time, but the probe was dropped in 2011 because Kenneth Copeland and other ministers refused to work with officials.

The couple was also criticized in 2015 by comedian Jon Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver, when he chastised them for, among other things, using church money to purchase a $20 million jet. Other evangelicals such as Russell Moore have referred to the couple as “heretics,” saying their theology is exploitative.

Kenneth Copeland’s presence on the board is also somewhat unexpected, as he proclaimed in February that God had anointed Sen. Ted Cruz to be the next president.

James Dobson

Author and host of My Family Talk, Dobson has been at the center of several controversies. But his most inflammatory remarks arguably came in 2012, when Dobson declared that the tragic shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School was the result of God’s judgment — a divine punishment supposedly enacted against the United States because some of its citizens are atheists, have abortions, and embrace same-sex marriage.

“I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition,” he said, speaking of the mass shooting. “…I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.”

Jerry Falwell Jr. with Donald Trump in January. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Jerry Falwell Jr. with Donald Trump in January. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Jerry Falwell, Jr.

President of Liberty University, an evangelical Christian school, Falwell is the son of famous evangelist Jerry Falwell. A vocal supporter of Trump since he endorsed the businessman earlier this year, Falwell — who is not an ordained minister — stoked controversy in December when he threatened to pull a gun out of his pocket during a school assembly to make a point about how he would kill the terrorists who enacted the San Bernardino shooting in California.

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them,” he said. “If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now… Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know. I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course … Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”

A member of Liberty University’s board of trustees resigned earlier in May over Falwell’s endorsement of Trump, saying The Donald’s incendiary campaign does not reflect “Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

Ronnie Floyd

The pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Arkansas, Floyd is the author of several books, including The Gay Agenda, in which he argues that homosexuality is not a biological sexual orientation, but “an idea.”

Jentezen Franklin

Franklin is the senior pastor of two Free Chapel megachurches: a 16,000 person one in Gainesville, Georgia, and another in Irvine, California. Every Sunday he reportedly delivers his morning sermon in Georgia, boards a private jet, and flies to California to deliver his second sermon at his west coast campus.

Jack Graham

The senior pastor of 40,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas — one of the largest churches in the United States — Graham also served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Graham and his church were dogged by controversy in 2013 after administrators removed comments from the congregation Facebook page asking about an incident in 1989 when a staffer was dismissed over rumors of child sexual abuse. The staffer left to become a music minister in Mississippi, where he was later arrested and convicted of child sex abuse.

Graham rebuked the accusations of mishandling the scandal in a sermon, saying Jesus also didn’t answer false accusers.

Harry Jackson

Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, Jackson has been an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. He once opened a Religious Right rally by describing LGBT supporters as “The Enemy” who want the “seed” of marriage equality to be “planted in this generation that corrupts, perverts and pollutes generations to come.”

Robert Jeffress

Pastor of the Texas megachurch First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, Jeffress has been an outspoken supporter of Trump for months. He warned that there would be a “boycott” of the Republican Party if the GOP refused to nominate the businessman as their nominee at the convention, and warned that Christians who refuse to vote for him are “selfish” and “prideful.”

He has claimed homosexuality leads to pedophilia and been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, declaring that legalizing it “will pave the way for the way for that future world dictator, the Antichrist, to persecute and martyr Christians without any repercussions whatsoever.” He is also vocally anti-Catholic, saying in 2010, “Much of what you see in the Catholic Church today doesn’t come from God’s Word, it comes from that cult-like, pagan religion … isn’t that the genius of Satan?”

David Jeremiah

Pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in in a suburb of San Diego, California, Jeremiah also runs a radio program called Turning Point. He has criticized the prosperity theology preached by other members of Trump’s board, writing in 2012, “as a basis for theology, [the prosperity gospel] is far from the good news of the gospel that Jesus preached … The picture of Jesus painted by prosperity preachers bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the New Testament.”

Dr. Richard Land in 2015. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
Dr. Richard Land in 2015. CREDIT: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Richard Land

Former head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (the denomination’s political arm), Land has made a career working at the intersection of religion and politics. Although an opponent of LGBT equality, Land once praised President Barack Obama’s plan for immigration reform, slamming Republicans who dismissed it as “amnesty.” He has also repeatedly condemned Islamophobia and attacks on American mosques as violations of religious freedom.

Land’s presence on the board is especially surprising given that he blasted Trump in Charisma News as recently as May, calling him a “scam” and warning voters “it must be said, before it is too late, that whatever the problems may be, Donald Trump is not the answer.”

“I fear that the millions of Americans who are putting their trust in Mr. Trump will be bitterly disillusioned if he were to obtain the nation’s highest office,” he said.

By mid-June, however, he was already urging evangelicals to support Trump, arguing that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a “greater evil.”

James MacDonald

Pastor of the six-campus Harvest Bible Chapel, MacDonald faced minor controversy in 2013 for disciplining three church elders who spoke out against a “culture of fear and intimidation” at the church and bemoaning how it handles money (as of 2014, it reportedly owed $56.8 million in construction costs).

In January, MacDonald wrote about the ongoing controversy regarding Trump’s visit to Liberty University, but refused to make a firm statement on Trump himself, saying, “As a pastor, I don’t endorse candidates.”

Johnnie Moore

Author and national spokesman for My Faith Votes, which helped organize Trump’s evangelical summit, Moore is also on the board of the National Association of Evangelicals. He has been conciliatory to Trump’s campaign for some time: Although Protestant, he criticized Pope Francis in February after the pontiff implied that Donald Trump is not a Christian for wanting to erect a larger wall between Mexico and the United States to keep out immigrants.

“No one is supporting Trump because of his Christianity,” Moore said at the time. “They are supporting him because they think he can fix America — and now he even has the Pope talking about it.”

Robert Morris

Pastor of the 35,000-member Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, Morris. He refers to bloggers who criticize him as people on “Satan’s hit list,” and once claimed that his prayers can help infertile women bear children.

Tom Mullins

Pastor of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based megachurch Christ Fellowship, which has a successful television ministry that reaches millions. An avowed conservative, Mullins is a fan of Glenn Beck, telling the then-FOX television show host in 2010, “Glenn, I’m convinced that God is using you.”

Ralph Reed in 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Molly Riley
Ralph Reed in 2014. CREDIT: AP Photo/Molly Riley

Ralph Reed

A longtime fixture of the Religious Right and head of the influential Faith and Freedom Coalition (whose conference Trump spoke at earlier this month), Reed is a stalwart opponent of LGBT equality. He opposed laws protecting LGBT people in the 1990s, saying, “No one should have special rights or privileges or minority status because of their sexual behavior.” More recently, his organization called for the federal government to stop offering grants to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, arguing that the church’s support for marriage equality — now the official position of the Episcopal Church, the congregation’s parent denomination — disqualifies it from government funds, writing, “Taxpayers are being asked to subsidize gay marriage ceremonies.”

Reed has been apologetic about Trump’s infamous difficulties with religion, saying, “You don’t need to quote scripture, just come and be yourself.”

James Robison

Founder of LIFE Outreach International, Robison is a well-known televangelist turned political advocate, gathering with Richard Land and other leaders — many of whom are part of Trump’s board — in 2010 to sketch out a plan to replace Barack Obama in 2012 election. He has been public about his support for Trump in the past, arguing that the businessman could save America from hell.

Robison has also been critical of prosperity theology, saying the message distorts the concept of giving.

Tony Suarez

An executive Vice-President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), Suarez represents America’s growing population Hispanic evangelicals. Suarez was deeply critical of Trump throughout his campaign, posting a Facebook message in January that called the businessman “embarrassing” before saying “the only thing more embarrassing is watching preachers support Trump and even manipulate scripture to invent false prophecies regarding Trump.” Earlier in June, Suarez called Trump’s rhetoric — especially his comments on immigrants — polarizing and alienating [to] the Latino electorate. Suarez told the Huffington Post that joining the board was not synonymous with supporting Trump, but that he saw it “as a positive step, if only for providing him and others a chance to urge Trump to think and talk differently about certain issues.”

Suarez’s presence on the board is notable not just for his own accolades, but also for who he effectively replaces: Sammy Rodriguez, the head of the NHCLC, is notably absent from the list. Rodriguez has worked to court Republican candidates in the past — especially former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — but has been more hesitant about Trump, noting that he is “Actually very opposed to [Trump’s] rhetoric on most issues … At the top of the list, his rhetoric on immigrants, on immigration, is unacceptable.”

Jay Strack

Evangelist and founder of Student Leadership University, a faith-based leadership-training program that helps young evangelical leaders develop their “Christian worldview.”

Paula White

A highly successful prosperity gospel preacher, White has operated as a surrogate for Trump on the campaign trail and, according to Mike Huckabee, as one of Trump’s direct spiritual advisors. Pastor of senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Florida, she spoke at a 10,000 person rally in Orlando in support of Trump, saying he “needs to be our next president” and recounting when she gave him a Bible signed by evangelist Billy Graham.

She even supported Trump while he was considering a presidential run in 2012, gathering 40 pastors to meet with him.

Tom Winters and Sealy Yates

Attorneys at Winters and King, Inc. and Yates and Yates respectively, Winters and Yates are both literary agents, giants in the lucrative world of evangelical Christian publishing. The two represent leaders such as Joel Osteen (who worked with Winters), pastor of the largest church in the United Sates and arguably the most famous prosperity gospel preacher in the world.