President Trump will visit a Miami-Dade County megachurch Friday that is headed by a pastor who the commander-in-chief says can perform miracles, to retain evangelical voters.
Mr. Trump will speak at the King Jesus International Ministry’s flagship campus in West Kendall, using the occasion to launch an “Evangelicals for Trump” group.
The church’s congregation is led by Guillermo Maldonado, who preaches about speaking in tongues and claims that he can heal the sick through God’s power.
King Jesus International Ministry, also known as El Rey Jesús, is believed to be one of the largest Hispanic churches in the United States. It has 10 congregations across the country.
The Honduran-born Maldonado says he founded the church with a dozen members in 1995, and it has grown to more than 20,000. Maldonado, who uses the title “apostle,” claimed in a 2013 interview that God visited him in the 1990s and inspired him to start the ministry.
“As I prayed, the presence of God filled my room,” Publishers Weekly quoted Maldonado as saying in that interview. “His presence fell on me and I started weeping and crying. I heard his voice say, ‘I have called you to bring my supernatural power to this generation.’ I was on the floor for two hours, then I heard the voice again but this time inside me telling me the same thing.”
Maldonado adds that his goal is “to gain 12% of the population of Miami for Christ,” according to the church’s website. He shares his knowledge of the “supernatural” through instructional videos and his book sales.
Candidates looking for Hispanic and evangelical votes have taken their message to Maldonado’s congregation in the past. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott visited the church during his gubernatorial campaign a decade ago, and Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, spoke there during his presidential campaign in 2008.
The Pew Research Center says eight-out-of-10 evangelical Christian voters supported Trump in the 2016 election.
Trump has been in South Florida since December 20, spending the holidays with First Lady Melania and their 13-year-old son, Barron, at Mar-a-Lago.
The upcoming King Jesus International Ministry event has drawn criticism from the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which wrote a letter to the IRS, demanding that the agency launch an investigation. The foundation alleges that the Johnson Amendment states that churches and charities can lose their tax-exempt status if they engage in activities “on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
Meanwhile, President Trump has advocated for the removal of the Johnson Amendment from the tax code. He argues that it infringes on the freedom of speech and religion rights of faith leaders.