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Ahead of Midterms, Faith Plays Central Role in Republican Efforts To Win Latino Votes

High-profile evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez vouched for Trump when he sought re-election in 2020, saying Latinos benefitted from his economic opportunities and the Supreme Court justices he appointed “that respect the sanctity of life.” Rodriguez leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which is regarded as the largest Hispanic Christian organization, with a network of more than 42,000 U.S. churches.

The conservative nonprofit Bienvenido U.S., through its faith assembly initiative, has activated voter registration drives with Latino and Spanish-speaking churches and seeks to inform voters of faith about what they call the “biblical stances” on the ballot. The organization works with Protestant and Catholic churches. Bienvenido’s senior faith director, Joshua Navarrete, who is also an assistant pastor at Redeemer Apostolic Church in Arizona, said it’s important to give faith leaders and pastors the “opportunity to pray in political circles,” whether it be a state board or city council meeting.

And since the 2020 election cycle, the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition has invested about $1 million a year to reach Latino and African American voters of faith, said Timothy Head, the organization’s executive director.

The coalition has staff engaging Latinos through Protestant and evangelical churches in states like Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada and Arizona. They have door knockers who visit about 600,000 Latino households during an election year and provide them with voter guides detailing how candidates land on issues like abortion, religious liberty and border security. Issues concerning marriage and gender resonate with Latino voters of faith, Head said.

Money also goes toward programming for their national conference, in which Latinos now make up about 30% of its attendees, Head said. By 2024, the coalition’s goal is to have a robust Latino outreach in up to 12 states.

Head said many Latinos they’re reaching come from Cuba and South America, where totalitarian and Communist regimes have driven them to the U.S.

“Not only are they very religious, they’re also very family-minded,” Head said. “They’re very freedom-minded, and they generally are very grateful to be in America.”

The Rev. Carlos Rincon, who pastors the Assemblies of God church Centro de Vida Victoriosa, said he finds himself at odds with evangelical leaders who are pushing a Republican political agenda. He sees the economy as the main reason Latino evangelicals are being steered in that direction.

Pastor Carlos Rincon on April 29, 2022. Courtesy photo

Pastor Carlos Rincon on April 29, 2022. Courtesy photo

At his East Los Angeles evangelical church, Rincon has preached that getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a way to care for others and to show “love to God, to our neighbors.” He has marched alongside Black Lives Matter supporters in Los Angeles after the police killing of George Floyd. He has also participated in interfaith demonstrations denouncing white supremacy.

Rincon, who is Mexican American, recalls being invited to a local evangelical prayer group earlier this year to pray for the needs of pastors. He was taken aback when faith leaders began praying for Trump “to come back to be president.”

“I felt like it was not a place for me,” he said.

Rincon doesn’t subscribe to conservative or progressive labels. He’s neither Republican nor Democrat, he said, but self-identifies as an independent.