During a meeting with evangelical leaders, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump questioned the faith of Hillary Clinton and warned against praying for political leaders who had "damaged Christianity" in the past.
On Tuesday, the billionaire real estate mogul met with nearly 100,000 evangelical leaders in New York City, including Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) and Tim Wildmon (American Family Association). The meeting was convened by former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and the nonpartisan My Faith Votes organization.
Despite the words found in 1st Timothy 2:1-2 - "I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all men for kings and all those in authority" - Trump advised against praying for political leaders who exhibited anti-Christian behavior: "We can't be politically correct and say we pray for all of our leaders because all of your leaders are selling Christianity down the tubes, selling the evangelicals down the tubes and it is a very bad thing that is happening," he said at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York City, ABC News reports.
"I think people who are saying let's pray for our leaders; you can pray for your leaders and I agree with that; pray for everyone," Trump added. "But what we really have to do is you have to pray to get everybody out to vote, and for one specific person."
The GOP frontrunner directly pointed to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, warning that she will only be an "extension of Obama" - but worse.
"I don't think about Hillary in terms of religion," Trump said. "She's been in the public eye for years and years and yet there's nothing out there, there's, like, nothing out there."
He added,"She's going to be an extension of Obama but it's going to be worse because with Obama, you had your guard up, with Hillary you don't, and it's going to be worse.
Although the meeting with Trump was closed to the press, a video of Trump's Christianity remark was posted to Twitter by conservative Virginia pastor and founder of the S.T.A.N.D. conservative non-profit organization E.W. Jackson.
Trump also referred to himself as a "tremendous Christian" and told evangelical leaders, "I'm on your side."
"Christianity, I owe so much to it in many ways," he added. "Through life, through having incredible children, through so many other things. But also from frankly, standing here because the evangelical vote was mostly gotten by me."
He also reminded attendees of how he won a number of other states with heavy evangelical populations such as North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi.
"If you remember, I went to South Carolina and I was going to be beat in a very evangelical state," Trump told the crowd. "And, I was going to be beaten by [Texas Sen. Ted Cruz] or somebody because he [was supposed to] be very strong with the evangelical vote and I ended up getting massive majorities of the evangelical vote. And then everybody said, 'What's going on and how did Trump do that?'"
"I won elsewhere and I won the whole South and heavy evangelical and Christian votes," Trump added.
Prior to Tuesday's meeting, FRC president Tony Perkins told Fox Business Network that the goal of the gathering is to "bridge the gap" so evangelicals and social conservatives would be "comfortable and active in supporting a candidate who will defend religious freedom and will turn this nation back on the right track."
"There is a desire to see this nation turn back to more of a conservative orientation," Perkins said. "There are a lot of evangelical leaders that are uncertain, they're undecided. I think they want to be for Donald Trump but there's a gap...this is a start, this is a process in the conversation to hopefully close that gap."
When asked if he believes Trump is a "religious" man, Perkins said, "Well, you know, Scripture makes very clear that you cannot know the heart of another man. You look at how they live their lives. This is what I see in Donald Trump, is he's not hostile toward religion. He's certainly not hostile to the Christian faith...I think he is a man who has some very good qualities. There's a lot that people like about him. And if people didn't like him and didn't want to support him, they [wouldn't]."