Trump stresses social issues at gathering of conservatives

Washington: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to position himself as the voice of moral rectitude during his speech at a conference of religious conservatives.

Addressing the Values Voters Summit in Washington, the real estate mogul said on Friday night that if elected, he would push for the repeal of a 1954 piece of legislation known as the Johnson amendment, which bars tax-exempt entities – such as churches – from endorsing political candidates, EFE news reported.

“They (members of the clergy) have been stopped from talking and speaking by a law. And we’re going to get rid of that law so fast,” Trump said.

In fact, the Johnson amendment only applies to political speech from the pulpit, and US religious leaders are free to endorse candidates in other venues.

The twice-divorced Trump was not the obvious choice for social conservatives at the start of the campaign for the Republican nomination, but since then, many have warmed to the flamboyant New Yorker and polls show that evangelicals overwhelmingly favour him over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“One of the greatest privileges of my journey has been the time I’ve spent with the evangelical community and people of faith across this nation,” he said Friday.

Describing the US as a divided country, Trump touted faith as the answer.

“It will be our faith in God and his teachings, in each other, that will lead us back to unity,” he said.

The Republican hopeful also pleased the crowd with his call to advance school choice by providing $20 billion in federal money for parents to send their children to private or religious schools.

“My plan will break the government monopoly and make schools compete to provide the best services for our children. The money will follow the student – to the public, private or religious school that is best for them and their family,” Trump added.