WASHINGTON — Religious conservatives attending the Values Voters Summit this month in D.C. explained why they have decided to support Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Russ Neglia from California, who is supporting Trump, told PJM that he immigrated to America legally when he was 12 years old.
“Having Hillary Clinton as president would destroy everything. I support him 100 percent even though he wasn’t my first choice,” he said.
When asked why he opposes Clinton, Neglia said, “She’s basically a criminal. She should be in jail. She comprised our secrets, our security, then she destroyed the evidence — that right there is a crime in anybody’s book. You and I would be in jail. She’s not in jail. She’s a total disaster.”
Neglia described himself as a “committed Christian” and said Clinton “has none of our values.”
“I’m a Roman Catholic. I believe in religious liberty. She doesn’t believe in it. She has all the secular beliefs that are totally counter to what my beliefs are and to a lot of other people,” he said.
Peter Wolfgang of Connecticut applauded Trump for not being a “bloodless robot” at the summit.
“Either he believes every word or he’s just really good at the delivery, but in that sense he’s different than [Mitt] Romney,” he said. “When he speaks about the plight of African-Americans in the inner city — when he talks about the urban poor. I believe that. I have to say, because, why is he saying that to this audience, but he said it with such passion. He’s not pandering to this crowd when he says that.”
Wolfgang continued, “I’ve not seen Republicans speak with that level of passion about that issue since Jack Kemp, so I totally believe Donald Trump on that. I think all the charges about him being racist are utterly bogus.”
Virginia Daley of New York was asked what specific part of Trump’s speech resonated with her the most.
“It basically is the freedom of religion and our rights. It’s all of our rights — school rights, immigration, the safety of our country, what kind of country am I going to leave for my seven grandchildren. And he seems to give me something that I can say, ‘OK, I can leave now and they’ll be safe,’” she said.
Nancy Elliott, a former New Hampshire state representative and chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, told PJM she was pleased with Trump’s keynote address at the summit.
“I had previously endorsed him, but what he said was fabulous. I thought he knocked it out of the park — getting rid of the Johnson Amendment — that’s huge,” she said at the summit, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council’s “legislative affiliate” FRC Action.
In the speech, Trump pledged to protect America’s Christian heritage.
“A Trump administration — our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended, like you’ve never seen before,” he said.
Trump also said he would push for the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits churches and other tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing political candidates.
“If I become president, we are going to knock out the Johnson Amendment. We are going to do that and it’s not going to be hard,” he said.
Trump did not specifically mention the issue of abortion during the speech. Elliot said he did not have to address the issue again.
“I don’t think it matters because he has said it multiple times. Sometimes when you say it too many times it starts to sound disingenuous. He said it repeatedly. I don’t think he needed to say it again,” she said.
Logan Riley of Iowa was surprised Trump left out abortion from his remarks.
“I mean, the abortion thing is important especially to a lot of people here, but I am actually surprised he didn’t touch on it to be honest with you considering the crowd he was speaking to,” he said.
Riley told PJM he is still undecided. “[Trump’s] somebody I’ve kind of bounced back and forth on as far as supporting so it was really good to see him again. In my opinion, he’s been acting a little more presidential than he has in the past,” he said.