WASHINGTON (JTA) — Donald Trump told conservative Christians he would work to remove restrictions on churches endorsing political candidates.
“I think maybe that will be my greatest contribution to Christianity — and other religions — is to allow you, when you talk religious liberty, to go and speak openly, and if you like somebody or want somebody to represent you, you should have the right to do it,” Trump told the group of conservative Christian leaders on Tuesday.
Speaking at his corporate headquarters in New York, the real estate magnate and presumptive Republican presidential nominee told the group that restrictions placed in the 1960s on explicit political endorsement by tax-exempt groups inhibited free speech.
“It’s taken a lot of power away from Christianity and other religions,” he said in an audio recording obtained by the Washington Post.
A number of major Jewish groups, led particularly by the Reform movement, oppose direct political participation in the political process, arguing that it breaches church-state separation. Conservatives deride the restrictions, saying they are more often ignored than observed, noting as an example get-out-the-vote drives in black churches, where Democrats are favored.
At the same meeting, Trump said he would protect Israel should he be elected.
“I can’t imagine that Bibi likes Obama so much,” Breitbart News quoted him as saying, referring to tense relations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.
Trump said that Obama’s actions, including a retreat from involvement in Iraq, had empowered Iran. Trump has said separately that he opposes U.S. intervention in the Middle East, especially in Iraq.
Also Tuesday, Jewish Insider reported that Trump blasted the Obama administration for allowing Boeing to sell parts to Iran for civilian aircraft. The Obama administration argues that the sale is permissible under the sanctions relief for nuclear rollback deal between six major world powers and Iran. The deal’s critics say it is a violation.
“Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, would not have been allowed to enter into these negotiations with Boeing without Clinton’s disastrous Iran nuclear deal,” Jewish Insider quoted the Trump campaign as saying, referring to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, Obama’s first secretary of state. The Trump statement noted past Boeing contributions to Clinton campaigns.
The newsletter noted that Trump has previously argued that the Iran deal should have allowed U.S. companies, like Boeing, to trade with Iran.