The evangelical split over Donald Trump just got wider

The evangelical schism over Donald Trump just got a little bit wider, and could have implications for the Bible-oriented university whose president has endorsed the billionaire.

DeMoss also chairs the executive committee of the board that governs Liberty University, and was once chief of staff for the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty’s founder, who died in 2007. The university president is now Jerry Falwell, Jr., who has personally endorsed Trump. Here’s what DeMoss told the Washington Post this week:

“Donald Trump is the only candidate who has dealt almost exclusively in the politics of personal insult,” DeMoss said. “The bullying tactics of personal insult have no defense — and certainly not for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ. That’s what’s disturbing to so many people. It’s not Christ-like behavior that Liberty has spent 40 years promoting with its students.”

….“I’ve been concerned for Liberty University for a couple of months now, and I’ve held my tongue,” DeMoss said. “I think a lot of what we’ve seen from Donald Trump will prove to be difficult to explain by evangelicals who have backed him. Watching last weekend’s escapades about the KKK, I don’t see how an evangelical backer can feel good about that.”

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In an email, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz answered the question of whether Donald Trump’s GOP presidential candidate is drawing in Democrats, as the candidate has claimed:

No. Examination of exit poll data from five states (NH, SC, GA, AL and MA) shows that an average of 4 percent of Republican primary voters have been Democrats. This is almost identical to the 3 percent of Democratic primary voters who have been Republicans. There has been very little crossover voting in either party.

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The U.S. Secret Service is putting some air between the agency and those black students expelled from a Donald Trump rally in Valdosta on Monday. From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. Secret Service said Wednesday it plays no role in removing protesters from campaign events unless they pose a threat to the candidate, in an effort to clarify its procedures after incidents at Donald Trump rallies.

In a statement Wednesday, the Secret Service denied any involvement in the ejection of a group of black students from a Trump campaign event in Georgia this week. And it said it was still investigating a physical altercation between a photojournalist and one of its agents at a campaign rally in Virginia.

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On that same topic, tucked into our AJC colleague Laura Diaz's story about state Sen. Vincent Fort and other Democrats mounting a defense of black university students ousted from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rallies was the hint of a lawsuit. From the story:

Nora Benavidez, attorney at American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, said her organization is “not opposed to pursuing” legal action against law enforcement and both candidates.

“What appears to be the unconstitutional removal of these students, at the very least, is something that we’re interested in pursuing,” Benavidez said. “Local and state and federal were all involved at the law enforcement level in removing these students from both rallies.”

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Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint says get used to seeing the words Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. From his blog:

Super Tuesday pretty much guaranteed that outcome. As the primaries move out of the south, the road for Ted Cruz gets much harder. Marco Rubio just isn’t delivering.  At this rate he will likely lose his home state of Florida, then his rationale for running collapses. John Kasich and Ben Carson are auditioning for the next Lethal Weapon movie. All of this makes it more likely that Trump will win a majority of delegates before the convention. Even if he doesn’t, and the GOP convention opens with Trump short of a majority, are establishment Republicans really going to mount an all-out effort to wrest the nomination from Trump’s hands? Really?

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We have more proof that House District 54, held by state Rep. Beth Beskin, R-Atlanta, is the most liberal – she would probably argue for “moderate” – of any held by a Republican.

On Tuesday, Marco Rubio won nearly half the vote in Beskin’s district, which was also Mitt Romney’s No. 1 state House district in the 2012 presidential contest. Ted Cruz drew 8.5 percent, roughly akin to what Rick Santorum won in 2012.

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The "campus carry" legislation may be an inevitability as opposition from Gov. Nathan Deal evaporates. But two of his most important appointments, University of Georgia president Jere Morehead and Regents Chancellor Hank Huckaby, fired warning shots about the proposal Wednesday as a Senate panel delayed taking action on the plan.

At that hearing, Regents chancellor Hank Huckaby said he opposed the legislation - echoing his position on a similar measure two years ago. Morehead swiftly followed his lead in an email. From The Red & Black:

Morehead included remarks from University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, who testified against HB859 in the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee earlier Wednesday. Morehead said in the email that he supports Huckaby's testimony.

Huckaby said in the testimony that the USG Board of Regents, 29 university presidents, police and parents of students “feel strongly that current law strikes the right balance between creating a safe environment on our campuses while affording those individuals who are carry users a safeguard location."

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The Daily Report today examines state Sen. Josh McKoon’s umbrage over a House effort to remake the Judicial Qualifications Commission as a creature of the Legislature:

"I don't understand the tall hurry some people seem to be in to completely restructure how it works without some kind of formal input from some of the stakeholders," said McKoon of a constitutional amendment that would abolish the Judicial Qualifications Commission, strip the State Bar of Georgia of its ability to appoint three of the JQC's seven members and give the General Assembly new authority over the commission's composition, governance and procedures.

McKoon chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the measure, House Resolution 1363, has been assigned to the Senate Ethics Committee.

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Tommie Williams of Lyons, one of the early leaders of the Senate when Republicans took control, announced his retirement from the chamber after 18 years. From Terry Dickson and the Florida Times-Union:

He served as Senate majority leader and president pro tempore before stepping down from his leadership positions a few years ago so he would have more time with his three young children.

“Sen. Tommie Williams is one of the pioneering leaders of the Georgia Republican Party. His election to the State Senate was history making,’’ said the current Senate President Pro Tempore David Shafer. R-Duluth.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said Williams has distinguished himself as “an outstanding public servant, someone who has remained steadfast in advocating for his constituency and the people of Georgia.”

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On the House side, another retirement was announced. From the Gainesville Times:

Desiring more time with family and a chance to be a “normal citizen” again, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Wednesday that he would not seek re-election to the state legislature this year.

Gainesville City Councilman Sam Couvillon’s name has been floated in some local political circles as a possible candidate for the District 29 seat.

Another name we’re hearing is giving the House seat some thought: Radio talk show host and former Hall County commissioner Ashley Bell.

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West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, who's running for Lynn Westmoreland's third district congressional seat, signed a pledge to support term limits for members of Congress.

Ferguson promised to back a constitutional amendment that would limit lawmakers' tenure to six years in the U.S. House and 12 in the Senate (that's three terms and two terms, respectively).

“Restoring the nation to a true citizen-legislature where member of all facets of our communities represent their neighbors for a short time then return home to live under the laws they wrote is absolutely necessary to moving our country forward," Ferguson said in a statement.  Here's the pledge he Ferguson signed.

David Perdue promised he'd serve no more than two terms in the Senate when he was campaigning for his seat.

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Gay rights activist Robbie Medwed has a sharp take in Creative Loafing on the fiery oratory from the pastors who open each legislative session. From his piece:

I get that we're never going to separate religion from politics in Georgia. I know where we live; I was born here and I've spent almost my entire life here. Perhaps this has all been amplified by the recent fights over so-called "religious freedom" laws, but between the daily prayers in Jesus' name and those bills, it's become clear that the Legislature isn't fighting for religious freedom, it's fighting to keep Christian supremacy. When the Christian Bible is used as the basis for laws and Jesus' name is declared the One True Savior, it's impossible to infer anything else. And it really sucks for the rest of us.

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A few of Georgia’s own are scheduled to speak at the massive annual confab that is the Conservative Political Action Conference this week.

On today’s agenda is U.S. Sen. David Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice. The two are scheduled for a congressional “power hour” in the afternoon. Perdue's camp says the first-term senator will focus on the national debt and breaking through the Washington "political class."

Cherokee County’s Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, is speaking Friday morning.

The event, which is held just outside of Washington, D.C., is a who’s who of conservative politicians and organizations. The agenda includes Speaker Paul Ryan, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre and Sean Hannity.

Much of the attention this year will focus on the four remaining Republican presidential candidates, all of which are scheduled to speak. Ben Carson said he would use his talk on Friday afternoon to discuss why he isn’t continuing with his presidential bid.

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Sen. Johnny Isakson celebrated news that the first shipments of U.S. poultry recently arrived in South Africa after 15 years of restrictions that essentially blocked imports.

Isakson is the co-chair of the Senate Chicken Caucus (yes, you read that right) and worked to pressure the South African government to end its trade policies that were stymying American poultry.

Poultry is big business is Georgia. Isakson's office said the industry contributes more than $15 billion to the state's economy annually.

"This is a significant win for poultry farmers in Georgia and Delaware, and for South Africans who will now have access to our healthy, affordable, and high-quality poultry," Isakson said in a joint statement with Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, the Democratic co-chair of the Chicken Caucus. 

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman
Tamar Hallerman is a senior reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's enterprise team, where she covers women in society, LGBTQ issues, the urban-rural...
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