Opinion writer

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Jerry Falwell Jr., leader of the nation’s largest Christian university, during a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa, on Jan. 31. (REUTERS/Dave Kaup)

Donald Trump broke the hypocrisy meter at the Faith and Freedom summit on Friday. To avoid more humiliating gaffes, the thrice married, notorious womanizer had to read off a teleprompter in words plainly written by others. “We want to uphold the sanctity and dignity of life,” said the former Planned Parenthood donor who until recently was not sure whether pro-life advocates wanted to punish women who have abortions. The man who pretended to be his own publicist to brag about sexual conquests proclaimed he was devoted to “marriage and family as the building blocks of happiness and success.” Trump, of course, constantly brags about his wealth and tells us one cannot be great without being wealthy.

Having been denounced for asserting Judge Gonzalo Curiel was inherently conflicted because he is “Mexican” (he was actually born in Indiana), Trump portrayed himself as a civil rights crusader. No one should judge others by race or color! (He did not mention ethnic heritage.) Sure he would ban Muslims from entering the United States, but he claimed to care deeply about  “the right of people of faith to freely practice their faith.”

It was apparent he was simply out to flatter the evangelicals, not to evidence any real tolerance for religions other than theirs. It was bone-chilling to hear him declare his commitment to protecting only a single religion. “We will respect and defend Christian Americans. Christian Americans.” Nothing about defending people of other faiths. (Remember Trump has also demeaned other Christians, as he did with Ben Carson, a Seventh Day Adventist.)

He threw in boilerplate about standing with Israel and defeating Islamist fundamentalists. He prattled on about appointing judges and respecting the rule of law (yes, incredible, isn’t it?). He also chided Hillary Clinton for wanting to “bring hundreds of thousands of refugees, many of whom have possible beliefs about people of different faiths and values [so much for freely practicing one’s religion and not discriminating about people, huh?] and some of whom support openly terror [how does he know?].”  (My comments in brackets.)

A good deal of the speech was a laundry list of disjointed attacks on Clinton interrupted by buzz words (e.g., school choice, repeal Obamacare). He was banking on the attendees’ gullibility (or cynicism) and their unwillingness to defend real religious values — kindness, fairness, humility, honesty, simple human decency — when told by a charlatan that he’ll be with them on abortion. (His lack of concern about gay marriage signals that apparently opposition is no longer a qualification for support from this group.)

Missing from the speech were phrases like: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21) or “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind” (Leviticus 19:14) or even “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

In applauding Trump wildly and in sending leaders out to defend Trump — in part on the grounds of Clinton’s shoddy character (!) — the coalition does not defend religious freedom. They insist their own faith be respected but care little for protecting others. This isn’t religious liberty; it’s religious bigotry. (Recall many in their group in 2012 could not bring themselves to support Mitt Romney, whose life and obvious faith — not to mention support for their social issues — could not in their eyes overcome their aversion to Mormonism.) The canard that operations like the Faith and Freedom Coalition stand up for “religious values” should end. This crowd wants someone to pander on a few issues just like any other special interest, but they require no evidence of sincerity nor of personal decency. (Speaking of Romney, he gave an interview denouncing Trump as a racist and fearing that his election would contribute to “trickle down” racism and misogyny. Now there’s a decent man of deep religious faith who cares about the soul of America.)

There was a ray of sunshine and deceny at the summit thanks to former VP candidate Carly Fiorina. As Jon Ward reported:

Much of Fiorina’s speech was a subtle rebuke of Trump. She said she would never vote for Clinton, but spent the rest of her remarks exhorting the audience to value the lives and abilities of all people and to devolve power away from the federal government.

Fiorina never mentioned Trump by name, but she urged her listeners to remember their beliefs.

“How we win matters,” she said. “Our faith tells us that victory at all costs is no victory at all. Our faith tells us that the ends do not justify every means.”

And as the official organs of the Republican Party have coalesced behind Trump, Fiorina cautioned that parties “can become like sports teams” where members “could become so concerned with winning that they would … forget about the values and principles that matter.” . . . [She] gave a nod to the idea that the elections worth the time and energies of Christians and conservatives are the ones for other offices beside for president.

In the post-Trump era her consistent opposition to Trump both before and after he sealed the nomination should be remembered. She reminds us — and the evangelical political hustlers — that winning for the sake of winning cannot be their objective.

Peter Wehner wrote earlier this year:

Thrasymachus, a cynical Sophist, insists that justice has no intrinsic meaning but is merely a pretty word for what is in the interest of the stronger party. Life is a competition to get more money and more power; that is what defines success. “Injustice, if it is on a large enough scale, is stronger, freer, and more masterly than justice,” he argues. . .

At its core, Christianity teaches that everyone, no matter at what station or in what season in life, has inherent dignity and worth. “Follow justice and justice alone,” Deuteronomy says, “so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.” The attitude of Thrasymachus is foreign to biblical Christianity. So is Trumpism. In embracing it, evangelical Christians are doing incalculable damage to their witness.

Trump is the modern Thrasymachus. The Faith and Freedom Coalition? They appear to be hypocrites who are enabling a racist, vulgarian and narcissist. If they care about the sanctity of marriage, collapse of cultural norms and real religious freedom, maybe they should look in the mirror and reconsider their support for Trump.