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A Latinx Evangelical Pastor Tries to Thread the Ideological Needle in the Trump Era

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In this image from video, Rev. Gabriel Salguero delivers the invocation during the first night of the Democratic National Convention on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. Associated Press

Rev. Gabriel Salguero is an influential evangelical pastor in Orlando known for the passionate bilingual sermons he delivers with his co-pastor and wife, Rev. Jeannette—he usually speaks in Spanish as she translates to English. They have an undeniable spark on stage thanks to their rapid-fire Puerto Rican New Yorker energy (they left the city for Florida six years ago), and their swift interpretation of each other is hypnotizing.

When Salguero is talking politics, which he does with increasing regularity these days, he often likes to share a version of this: “People see me and say, ‘Oh he’s Latino, he must be a Democrat.’ Then they say, ‘He’s evangelical, so he must be a Republican.’ Then they say, “He’s a Latino evangelical? What is he?’”

Latinx evangelicals, Salguero notes, tend to support humane treatment of migrants at the border, a path to citizenship for young immigrants, criminal justice reform to end racially motivated police killings, and government assistance for those in need. But they also typically oppose access to abortions and same-sex marriage, and are concerned with issues of religious liberty. They are, Salguero likes to say, “the quintessential swing voters.”

About 11 percent of the United States’ 90 million evangelical Christians are Latinos, and many of them live in swing states like Florida, where polls currently show Joe Biden holding a slight lead over President Donald Trump. While Latinx evangelicals tend to be more conservative than Latinx Catholics, they are still significantly less so than white evangelicals—and, like Salguero, many are unaffiliated with a political party. In assessing the Latinx electorate, FiveThirtyEight noted that “the group among which Biden is most liable to struggle—and where Trump may have the most success picking up or maintaining support—is among evangelicals, who make up the vast majority of Latino Protestants.”

After earning about 58 percent of the Protestant vote in 2016, Trump has made a bigger effort to court Christian voters in 2020, touting his support for school prayer, tough restrictions on abortion, and the appointment of more conservative judges across the country. The campaign has “carefully targeted evangelical Latinos with political recognition, high-profile surrogates and digital ads,” as well as host dozens of virtual events, according to a Washington Post story. Earlier this year, not long after a post-impeachment trial editorial on Christianity Today called for the removal of Trump from office, he chose to address evangelicals nationwide from Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesús, a church in Miami.

The Biden campaign, meanwhile, rolled out a faith outreach program with a focus on........

© Mother Jones

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