Rev. Franklin Graham gives President Donald Trump high marks in his handling of the presidency to date, saying he may go down as one of the greatest to hold the office.
In an exclusive interview with The Western Journal, Graham pointed to Trump’s fidelity to what he promised as a 2016 candidate to people of faith and Americans as a whole as the best way to judge him.
“I think he has honored his commitments to the faith-based community,” Graham said. “He is pro-life, [the] first president really in my lifetime that has been this vocal about life. I certainly appreciate that about him.
“He’s fulfilled his promise as it relates to conservative judges,” he said. “He’s put two Supreme Court justices so far on the bench that are conservative. He’s appointed a number at lower courts. I hope that he’ll be able to do even more in that area, because that will have an impact on my childrens’ lives. If we have the right judges, it will benefit all of us.”
The preacher also is grateful for Trump’s stand for religious liberty, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Graham pointed to his executive action in relation to the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” which threatens churches and other religious nonprofits with loss of their tax-exempt status or fines, if their leaders make statements about political issues or candidates.
Trump’s executive order instructs the Treasury Department not to take any adverse action, “to the extent permitted by law,” against these organizations merely for speaking about political issues from a religious perspective.
Attempts to repeal the Johnson Amendment have fallen short in Congress.
Graham also appreciates the president’s commitment to help persecuted Christians overseas. On Monday, the Samaritan’s Purse chief met with the Rev. Andrew Brunson, whose release from imprisonment in Turkey the Trump administration secured last fall.
It was a pleasure to have Pastor Andrew Brunson & his wife Norine at @SamaritansPurse today, 8 months after his release from Turkish prison. Aileen Coleman was also w/us—she’s served as a missionary nurse in Jordan for 60+ years & has had a great impact on my life. pic.twitter.com/voahmhTtYZ
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) June 11, 2019
“I think he would still be in a Turkish jail if it had not been for President Trump,” Graham said.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told The Western Journal that he hand-delivered a personal letter from Trump to Brunson — who was on trial in Turkey — assuring the clergyman that he would not be forgotten and the Trump administration would do everything it could to bring him home.
“[Trump] has been the strongest voice on religious freedom and the defense of the persecuted than any president we’ve had,” Perkins said.
Just landed at Andrews AFB with Pastor Brunson and his wife Norine. They are thankful to be safely home in the USA. Under this administration being an American means something! @realDonaldTrump @VP @SecPompeo pic.twitter.com/YOjoEOCX6k
— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) October 13, 2018
According to the White House, at least 20 Americans held overseas have been released thanks to his administration’s efforts, including three imprisoned by North Korea. Two of the men had been teaching at a Christian-supported university in the communist nation.
Graham’s praise for the president extends beyond faith-related issues.
“I think he has done an excellent job getting people back to work, turning the economy around, defeating ISIS as a military power on the battlefield. He has done all of these things, and he’s done it very quickly,” he said.
“All this he has done without a fully supportive Republican majority. He, of course, has been able to do it with the relentless attacks of the Democrats,” Graham continued. “He may go down in history as one of the best presidents we’ve had.”
The Christian leader reaffirmed his belief, first voiced after Trump’s surprise 2016 win, that it was God’s divine will for the New York businessman to become president.
“I think God was behind the last election,” he said.
In January 2017, Graham told Fox News, “[Americans wanted] somebody in the White House who believed in God and was willing to listen to God’s voice.”
“I could tell as I was going across the country that God was getting ready to do something” to change the direction of America, he said.
Over a nine-month period during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, Graham held rallies in all 50 state capitals.
— BGEA (@BGEA) March 18, 2016
Asked if he planned to do a similar capital tour for the 2020 election cycle, Graham replied he does not.
“I just felt in my heart that God wanted me to lead these prayer rallies on capitol steps [in 2016],” he said. “I don’t have that burden this next cycle.”
But he added, “If I felt in my heart God wanted me to do it, I would certainly do it.”
“I think if Christians pray, pray for the president and pray for his administration, I think God will honor their prayers,” Graham said.