WASHINGTON — Some evangelical leaders stood by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump even after a video was released Friday containing his lewd remarks about women.
Evangelicals, who have upheld the importance of family values and traditional marriage between a man and woman, have been hugely divided on Trump’s candidacy.
Many of them are split on attitudes toward race and ethnicity, candidates’ personal morality and character, religious freedom issues, and how much Supreme Court appointments should matter when choosing a candidate.
Ralph Reed, a conservative Christian activist and the head of Trump’s religious advisory board, said that as the father of two daughters, he was disappointed by the ‘‘inappropriate’’ comments.
‘‘But people of faith are voting on issues like who will protect unborn life, defend religious freedom, grow the economy, appoint conservative judges and oppose the Iran nuclear deal,’’ he said in an e-mail.
He contrasted Trump with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, saying that her ‘‘corrupt use of her office to raise funds from foreign governments and corporations and her reckless and irresponsible handling of classified material on her home-brewed e-mail server, endangering US national security, that will drive the evangelical vote.’’
‘‘I think a 10-year-old tape of a private conversation with a TV talk show host ranks pretty low on their hierarchy of their concerns,’’ he said.
The newest poll from the Public Religion Research Institute said that 69 percent of white evangelical Protestants favored Trump while 19 percent supported Clinton. The latest Washington Post/ABC poll indicates that 52 percent of evangelicals of any race favored Trump compared to 40 percent who supported Clinton.
Evangelicals have no formal leadership and have been divided over who may speak for those who choose that label.
One group of evangelicals released a letter on Thursday condemning Trump, saying his campaign ‘‘affirms racist elements in white culture.’’
Other Christian leaders varied in their responses to Trump’s comments. Darrell Scott, a black pastor from Cleveland who supports Trump, wrote on Twitter, ‘‘I don’t condone the conversation; but I don’t condemn the man!’’
Popular author Rachel Held Evans, who grew up in an evangelical home, called on evangelicals to speak out against Trump’s words.
Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas and a member of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council, said he believes Trump is ‘‘still the best candidate to reverse the downward spiral this nation is in.’’
‘‘While the comments are lewd, offensive, and indefensible . . . they are not enough to make me vote for Hillary Clinton,’’ Jeffress told the Post.
David Brody from the Christian Broadcasting Network tweeted, ‘‘This just in: Donald Trump is a flawed man. We ALL sin every single day.’’
Tony Perkins, who leads the conservative Family Research Council, did not back down from his personal support of Trump, according to Buzzfeed.
‘‘My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values, it is based upon shared concerns about issues such as: justices on the Supreme Court that ignore the constitution, America’s continued vulnerability to Islamic terrorists and the systematic attack on religious liberty that we’ve seen in the last 7½ years,’’ Perkins said in an e-mail to Buzzfeed.
Some evangelicals denounced Trump’s remarks, including Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
‘‘To be pro-life means to say to the ethic of Margaret Sanger *and* to the ethic of Howard Stern: #Never,’’ Moore tweeted.
‘‘I am humiliated by arguments about character I am hearing tonight from some evangelicals. Lord, help us,’’ tweeted Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
And Calvin College philosophy professor James K.A. Smith tweeted about religious freedom, one of the reasons why many evangelicals have said they support Trump.
‘‘So the price of ‘preserving religious freedom’ is to cast your lot with someone who mocks, and makes a mockery of, your belief & practice?’’ Smith wrote on Twitter. ‘‘Maybe, just maybe, securing your ‘religious freedom’ isn’t worth compromising your religion?’’