Donald Trump to attend same Christian-right conference for which Marco Rubio is being assailed

Donald Trump

Christian-conservative media and the American Renewal Project are reporting Tuesday that Donald Trump intends to make a “surprise” visit to the same Florida Renewal Project conference in Orlando that is getting U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio assailed by Florida’s gay community.

The American Renewal Project is organizing the conference.

Its webpage on Tuesday added a link to a article announcing that Trump, who will be in Central Florida Thursday to give an economic speech in Kissimmee, will make a “surprise visit” to the conference where he will announce his intention to appeal the Johnson amendment, a 1954 law that prohibits churches from overtly getting involved in presidential politics.

At the same time, CBN News is reporting the same thing as an exclusive.

Presumably Trump’s visit would be Thursday, the same day he’s speaking in Kissimmee. However, American Renewal Project has not publicly released details of the conference’s agenda. The speeches will be closed to the media.

The conference is not on Trump’s public campaign schedule.

The conference has come under fire for its speakers’ list, which includes a number of people the LGBT community identifies as strongly anti-gay.

Rubio also is among the speakers announced for the two-day conference at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, with some events slated for the Orange County Convention Center across the street. His presence has led to numerous calls from LGBT and Hispanic leaders, and Democrats for him to back out.

About 500 Florida pastors are expected at the conference.

Friday, the day Rubio is to speak, is the two-month anniversary of the massacre at the popular Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, a mass shooting that killed 49 and wounded 53.

A protest is planned Thursday outside that will include LGBT and Hispanic leaders, and Orlando-area faith leaders who have joined forces with the LGBT community since the Pulse massacre.

“We’re furious. This is beyond the pale,” said Carlos Guillermo Smith, one of the protest organizers who’s running for the Florida House of Representatives in Orlando-based District 49.

The American Renewal Project and the Liberty Counsel are promoting the conference only as a gathering of religious leaders to discuss “God in America.” They report no explicitly anti-gay agenda items, other than a list of speakers who have a history of anti-gay activism.

Rubio and his campaign have defended his appearance as having nothing to do with gay issues, but rather to address religious leaders about religion and politics.

“The event I will be speaking at in Orlando is a gathering of local pastors and faith leaders. Leave it to the media and liberal activists to label a gathering of faith leaders as an anti-LGBT event. It is nothing of the sort. It is a celebration of faith,” Rubio stated in a release issued Monday.

“Because I believe that a strong America is not possible without strong families and strong values, for years now I have participated in events hosted by faith leaders to speak about the cultural and social issues before America, including the importance of parents and families, religious liberties and combatting poverty.

“I have always supported a traditional definition of marriage. But I recognize that a significant number of Americans hold a different view. Because marriage is regulated by the individual states, they have the right to petition their state legislature to change the law. And those of us who support traditional marriage also have a right to oppose those efforts.”

Smith and others have condemned the conference for choosing that date and Orlando to host speakers such as Mat Staver, Ken Graves, and David Barton, who have made profoundly anti gay statements, such as Barton’s declaration that God is justifiably preventing a cure for AIDS to punish gays.

And they are urging Rubio to back out.

The Florida Democratic Party released an “open letter” to Rubio Tuesday that states:

“Sen. Rubio, your presence as a guest of honor at a conference featuring vehemently anti-LGBT organizations and speakers legitimizes their discriminatory efforts to deny equal rights to all Americans. Your decision to stand with those who would deny us equality after refusing to stand with your LGBT constituents adds insult to injury.

“In the wake of the Pulse shooting, the need for more love, tolerance, and inclusion has never been greater. Your choice to return to Orlando and lend your voice to those who stoke fear and division is unacceptable.”

The letter was signed by Smith, as well as Terry Fleming, president of the Florida LGBTA Democratic Caucus; Vivian Rodriguez, president of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida; and Darden Rice, vice chair of the St. Petersburg City Council.


Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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