The Evangelicals for Trump coalition, launched at an event Friday night in Miami, is pretty much a who's who of anti-LGBTQ extremists from the Christian right.
The group's members have called being gay "filthy" and "immoral," equated homosexuality with pedophilia and alcoholism, and blamed LGBTQ people for natural disasters, according to research compiled by GLAAD.
Donald Trump was surrounded by coalition members at the Miami event, at which he questioned the sincerity of gay presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg's Christian faith. Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has often spoken about his faith while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. But Trump said of Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, "All of a sudden he has become extremely religious. This happened about two weeks ago." The following day, Buttigieg responded to Trump's statement by telling a journalist, "I'm pretty sure I've been a believer longer than he's been a Republican," The New York Times reports.
At the event, Trump also blasted the entire field of Democratic presidential hopefuls, saying all of them "trying to punish religious believers, and silence our churches and our pastors," according to Religion News Service. He added, "Our opponents want to shut out God from the public square so they can impose their extreme anti-religious and socialist agenda on America."
There's no factual basis for those statements, but the "religious believers" who surrounded Trump Friday night undoubtedly agree with them. One of the best-known among them is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Perkins has likened LGBTQ rights advocates to Nazis, speculating that they would haul Christians off in boxcars and place them in reeducation camps. He has advised the Republican Party on its national platform and helped strengthen the anti-LGBTQ language in the document, including opposition to marriage equality. He has said the Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling meant schools would teach "immoral sexuality"; denounced the 2003 high court ruling striking down antisodomy laws; and said that "true religious freedom" is "based on orthodox religious viewpoints," not more liberal views that endorse LGBTQ equality.
The others who joined Trump have equally repugnant views, anti-LGBTQ and antichoice, and often bigoted against members of other faiths. John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, has said Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for LGBT people, as New Orleans was about to hold its Southern Decadence celebration when the city suffered the storm's effects in 2005, and that Adolf Hitler was a "hunter" sent by God in order to get Jews back to Israel.
Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, has said of gay people, "What they do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease." He has also called Islam "a false religion" and denied that Mormons are Christians.
Former Minnesota Congresswoman and onetime presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann has said homosexuality comes from Satan and that gay people want to legalize child molestation. Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and former leader of the Pat Robertson-connected Christian Coalition, has likened the fight against marriage equality to the fight against slavery.
Gary Bauer, another former presidential aspirant, has said the movement for LGBTQ rights would "mortify" the late civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. A niece of King's, Alveda King, is also a longtime LGBTQ rights opponent who was present at the Friday event; she has endorsed "ex-gay" therapy and argued against marriage equality. Harry Jackson, senior pastor at Hope Christian Church in Maryland, has said transgender people are a "problem ... coming to a bathroom near you."
The event was held at the Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesus (King Jesus International Ministry), led by Guillermo Maldonado. Maldonado has frequently written of his opposition to homosexuality, saying that having same-sex relations is "clearly prohibited by God" and "invites unclean spirits into our lives." Homosexuality could be the result of sexual abuse, "a generational curse, or even a demonic attack while in the womb," he wrote in his book Spiritual Deliverance.
His church has a policy of being nonpolitical and nonpartisan, but it excused hosting the Evangelicals for Trump event by with a statement saying its space was leased to the Trump reelection campaign "in exchange for fair compensation" and that the arrangement did not constitute an endorsement of the president. Maldonado was named to the coalition "in his personal capacity," the statement said.
GLAAD denounced the anti-LGBTQ makeup of the coalition. "There is never an excuse to use religion as a means to target and discriminate against another person," said Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, in a press release. "But in tune with his administration, Donald Trump and his team are willing to attack and marginalize any person or group at all costs. LGBTQ Americans are well aware of the incessant attacks the Trump administration has made against the community since taking office, and we are ready to ensure this administration is held accountable in the ballot box."
Also, Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD's president and CEO, tweeted her objections to Trump's denigration of Buttigieg's faith.