An email message sent out Friday morning by the campaign of Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)claims the junior senator from Florida “is leading the Billy Graham wing” of evangelical Christians, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) “is leading the Jerry Falwell wing,” and GOP frontrunner Donald Trump “is leading the Jimmy Swaggart wing.”
The email was signed by Eric Teetsel, who was hired by the Rubio campaign in November to serve as its director of Faith Outreach. It began with a controversial quote made at Roll Call last week by Russell Moore, an advocate of amnesty for illegal aliens, key figure in the George Soros-funded Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), supporter of increases in Syrian refugee resettlement, one-time staffer to former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS), and current president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Notably, the email made no mention of Dr. Ben Carson, an evangelical Christian who, until early November, was leading in the Iowa polls and was challenging GOP frontrunner Donald Trump for the national lead in polls.
“Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Trump, Cruz, and Rubio are appealing to disparate camps of evangelicals,” the Rubio campaign email began.
“’I would say that Ted Cruz is leading in the Jerry Falwell wing, Marco Rubio is leading the Billy Graham wing and Trump is leading the Jimmy Swaggart wing,’ Moore said,” the email continued, referencing a statement Moore made to Roll Call in an article published early Friday morning, two hours before the time stamp on the campaign email.
One nationally known evangelical Christian took exception to that characterization.
“While I appreciate Marco Rubio’s sincere faith, and would support him if he wins the nomination, this statement by immigration activist Russell Moore is a misguided attempt to use the reputations of Christian leaders for political purposes,” Kelly Monroe Kullberg, editor of Finding God at Harvard and founder of Evangelicals for Biblical Immigration, tells Breitbart News.
“I don’t find this tactic fair or helpful to the Church or to evangelical’s discernment in the political process,” Kullberg adds.
The notion advanced by the Rubio campaign that the role of a presidential candidate is not merely to persuade voters why the candidate should be selected to head the executive branch, but is also to provide religious leadership to evangelical Christians in the way Billy Graham has for more than seven decades, appears to be at odds with the recent public messages of Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham and head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
The younger Graham made it clear when he launched his 50-state “Decision America 2016” in Iowa last week that his purpose was to encourage Christians to participate in the political process by voting for candidates who support Biblical values. He was quite clear that he would not be endorsing any candidate of either party. That choice, he said, should be left to the discernment of individual Christians.
Graham also said in an exclusive interview with Breitbart last week that the government, by using taxpayer dollars to take over responsibilities previously handled by the church, “has marginalized the church.”
It is hard to view the Rubio campaign’s use of Moore’s claim that Donald Trump “is leading the Jimmy Swaggart wing” as an indication of respect for either Trump or the 45 percent of GOP primary voters who self-identify as evangelicals who support him, according to a CNN-ORC poll conducted in December.
Swaggart, who during the 1970s and 1980s had a level of national prominence due to his televangelist broadcasts, fell hard in the 1980s when he was at the center of a scandal in which he admitted frequently visiting prostitutes.
Today, Swaggart’s broadcast empire is a shadow of its former self.
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Michael Patrick Leahy