James Dobson. Richard Land. Ralph Reed. The ’90s are back in Trumpland, and the old-guard religious right is making its return. After Trump spoke at a meeting of more than 1,000 evangelicals and some Catholics on Tuesday, his campaign announced his appointment of an “evangelical executive advisory board” to lead a larger “Faith and Cultural Advisory Committee” that will be announced later in June.
The list reads like a who’s who of conservative Christian leaders. Ronnie Floyd just ended his term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jerry Falwell Jr. heads Liberty University. Reed and Dobson each founded highly influential Christian lobbying groups—the Faith and Freedom Coalition and Focus on the Family, respectively. Many of these figures are household-names among Christian families in America, having either started or inherited empire-sized talk-radio networks and organizations.
But the list also hints at the very real tensions over Donald Trump among conservative evangelicals. Richard Land was the head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s political organization, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, until 2013, when he was pushed out over remarks he made about Trayvon Martin’s death. His successor, Russell Moore, has been a vocal opponent of Trump’s, and he was not at the Tuesday meeting in New York. Given the strong position Moore has taken against Trump, Land’s appointment seems like a snub. Similarly, Tony Suarez, another member of Trump’s board, is the executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. The president of the NHCLC, Samuel Rodriguez, has said he is “very opposed to his rhetoric on most issues … At the top of the list, his rhetoric on immigrants, on immigration, is unacceptable.”