The Futility of Donald Trump's Johnson Amendment Promise: Most Pastors Don't Want to Endorse Political Candidates

trump donate campaignCBN’s The Brody File reported yesterday that Donald Trump will speak to a group of pastors in Florida about repealing the Johnson Amendment.

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will be speaking to hundreds of pastors this Thursday in Orlando, Florida. This is a private event sponsored by the American Renewal Project. Trump will speak to them about his push to repeal the Johnson Amendment. The law, which has been in place for decades, is perceived by some Christians as making it more difficult for pastors to speak out on political issues and candidates from the pulpit.

Correction: the amendment doesn’t prevent speaking on “political issues.” It does prohibit all tax-exempt organizations from campaigning or advocating for specific candidates.  Here is the IRS guidance on the matter:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

The prohibition is about campaigning for a person, not speaking out on issues. Ministers may speak about any issue and even speak in favor of a candidate, but they may not involve their churches in partisan campaign activities. It is very sad to me that any minister would want to use the church of Christ to promote a candidate but since some would, I am actually glad that the Johnson Amendment exists.
Many Christian supporters of Trump (e.g., Eric Metaxas today) think it is a big deal that Trump wants to pursue a repeal of the Johnson Amendment. If one can rely on surveys, many pastors don’t agree. According to a Christianity Today analysis, most pastors don’t want to endorse specific candidates from the pulpit or on behalf of the church. For instance, CT cited a Lifeway Research survey which found that a whopping 87% of pastors disagreed with the statement: “Pastors should endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit.” Only 29% of a Pew Research sample of Protestants and Catholics felt that churches should endorse candidates during elections.
I am glad a majority of ministers don’t want to use the church as a political tool. Doing so subordinates the mission of the church to political aims. Taking sides also risks alienating church members who disagree. Those members can feel coerced to vote consistently with the church endorsement.
Furthermore, the IRS isn’t enforcing the law. According to CT, thousands of pastors have violated the law (just think of that when you hear Trump say he’s the law and order candidate), but the IRS hasn’t done much about it.  Trump’s Johnson Amendment promise is just another substance-free hook to hoodwink evangelical voters and soothe the doubts of evangelical endorsers.
Brody’s analysis of the Florida event is a pretty good argument why the Johnson Amendment isn’t currently relevant to what churches actually do. Brody said:

Events like this one will be crucial to Trump if he wants to beat Hillary Clinton. The reality is that evangelical pastors are a major key ingredient to mobilizing the masses. They hold great power over a captive audience every week in the pews. Trump needs them engaged. If they are, the flocks will typically follow. The result? A bottom up approach that will affect turnout exponentially. The top down approach of receiving key endorsements won’t do squat unless the evangelicals sitting in the pews are motivated. Trump shouldn’t assume that the anti-Hillary sentiment will be all he needs. No. He needs to do some work and by showing up in Orlando he’s well on his way to striking evangelical gold.

If Brody is right, then why does the Johnson Amendment matter? If Trump can get those pastors on his side, they will go pull spiritual rank on the captive sheep and the flock will get in line. There’s evangelical gold in them there churches and Trump needs to mine it like a boss.
I hope Brody is wrong. First, I hope most pastors will continue to resist a church endorsement of a candidate, and second, I hope the sheep break free from their captivity and become independent in their thinking and voting.

Donald Trump the Divider of Evangelicals; The Kids Aren't Alright With It

Over the weekend, Mark Oppenheimer penned an op-ed criticizing Eric Metaxas for supporting Donald Trump. More than criticize Metaxas’ position, Oppenheimer expressed surprise that a Bonhoeffer biographer like Metaxas could overlook what seems to be an obvious fascist theme in Trump’s campaign.
Today, conservative writer and friend of Metaxas Rod Dreher accuses Oppenheimer of smearing Metaxas. However, he does it while agreeing with Oppenheimer that Metaxas is agonizingly wrong to support Trump.
This is a fascinating exchange (read both articles) and one that illustrates what feels like an impossible choice to many people this year. Trump’s pandering to evangelicals has divided the camp. We’re not seriously divided on Clinton, very few are offering a defense. However, when it comes to Trump, some celebrity evangelicals like Grudem, Metaxas and Falwell feel the need to not only vote for Trump but to convince others to do so. People like Russell Moore feel the need to keep people away from Trump.
Instead of feeding the poor, helping the broken and testifying, evangelicals are fussing about just how crazy and fascist Trump is. Is he just a little, or unacceptably too much? This can’t be a good thing.
Such shenanigans are not lost on many evangelical lay people, especially the kids. This morning I ran across this article by Amy Gennett. She makes a case that “the youth” are watching and don’t like what they see.

Over the last several months, I have lost respect for the Republican party, and I honestly thought that would be the biggest tragedy of this election. But the disappointing truth is this: I’m losing faith in Evangelicals.
And this is frightening. I am an Evangelical. I hold to Evangelical theology. I have attended not one, but two Evangelical schools. But I fear that we’re going to lose an entire generation because of the actions, words, and teachings of some Evangelicals. Including Wayne Grudem.

Teaching at a Christian college, I hear these thoughts often.
Grudem’s article raised the GOP flag and implied it was sin not to salute. Metaxas tells us we must vote for Trump or the whole nation drops into the abyss. Ms. Gannett continues:

Evangelical leaders are not just supporting nationalism, but are elevating nationalism to a Christian virtue. Many point back to the founding fathers as Christian leaders in our nation and impress upon us that we must support the constitution and protect our country because it is a Christian thing to do. We have deeply muddied the language between serving our God and serving our country. Forget the martyrs of the faith around the world, posters show us that soldiers make the “ultimate sacrifice.” As Christian millennials, we just can’t buy this. We look over our shoulders at our nation’s history and wince a little. We don’t have a lot of national pride because we are waking up to the immense on-going racism that exists in our nation’s systems, the horrors of early American history, and the tragedies around the world that happen because every country has nationalists. So when you equate nationalism with Christian virtue, we’re out.

Evangelical leaders need to wake up and smell the wisdom in this. Of course, there are evangelicals of all ages (I’m pushing 60) who are bolting from Christian nationalism. Ms. Gannett believes her generation is itchy to get away from it which could be one of the silver linings of this storm.

Mark Driscoll Launches The Trinity Church (VIDEO)

Our roving reporter Deana Holmes tells me that 162 cars were in the parking lot for today’s launch of The Trinity Church in Scottsdale AZ (170 for the second service). Security was on hand along with a television crew from Seattle’s King 5 (Scroll to the bottom for the video segment).  Apparently, they still remember the former Mars Hill Church pastor.

The worship team was provided courtesy of Amarillo, TX church Trinity Fellowship. Kind of a theme.

Driscoll was pastor of Mars Hill Church until he resigned in October 2014.  He and the church had been kicked out of the Acts 29 Network and suffered a severe decline of attendance after several questionable financial details were revealed. He had committed to a plan of restoration developed by his elders but said God told him a trap had been set for him and that he was released from Mars Hill.  Long interested in Phoenix, Driscoll moved the family with plans to plant a church not long after he resigned from Mars Hill.

The Trinity Church twitter feed provides a look inside the first service.


The King 5 reporter Josh Green tweeted some pics, including one of Deana.


Trinity church bouncy
trinity church sign
trinity church close

The King 5 report is here.

When Trump Came to the Door, Why Didn't Evangelicals Play Hard to Get?

This post probably comes a little too late. However, there may be a little time left. We’re the ones, after all, who are supposed to believe in miracles.
The Strange Case of a Bonhoeffer Biographer Endorsing Trump
Too many evangelicals just melted into a puddle of sugar when Donald Trump came calling. Some liked him from the beginning (e.g., Jerry Falwell, Jr.) and then he grew on some others, like for instance Eric Metaxas. Metaxas is a strange Trump convert since he wrote a book on Bonhoeffer that, despite its errors of fact, is viewed as semi-inspired by many evangelicals. As Mark Oppenheimer points out in the Daily Beast today, Metaxas should know how to identify budding fascism since he wrote about Bonhoeffer’s resistance to it. Oppenheimer is understandably perplexed and offended by the contradictions between Metaxas the Trump supporter and Metaxas the Bonhoeffer biographer.
I have all kinds of problems with evangelicals going gaga for Trump, but one of the biggest is that they enable his flaws. In the Daily Beast article, Metaxas makes excuses for him, likening him to a “cranky ‘uncle’ who is basically harmless but doesn’t know when to shut up.” My first thought: I don’t want a cranky Uncle having the nuclear codes. Second thought: How is that supposed to reassure anyone that Trump is a good choice? Third thought: Metaxas isn’t paying attention to what Trump proposes on a regular basis. Trump sounds more troubling than a cranky Uncle.
Now here is something else I don’t understand. Why do evangelicals fail to use their leverage and influence? If evangelical leaders stick up for the groups Trump bashes, what is Trump going to do? Go get another major demographic group to replace us? Where’s he going to go? Enabling him by making excuses violates the principles evangelicals are supposed to champion and reinforces Trump’s belief that he can do anything and his supporters don’t care.
It May Not Be Too Late for an Alternative
There are currently efforts to recruit an alternative candidate. Why haven’t evangelical leaders moved in that direction? There are many voters who don’t want Trump or Clinton. An alternative candidate, with sufficient support from evangelicals, might be able to upset the electoral math and send the election to the House of Representatives. Sure, it is a long shot, but why give up on that principled option so soon? There is still time for this.
If the third party option doesn’t work out, then a substantial number of evangelicals would go for Trump. However, evangelicals should pursue all options first. The group Better for America is still promising a conservative independent candidate. If BfA’s candidate doesn’t work out, then I can understand some evangelicals moving toward (not me, but it would happen) Trump. However, if the millions who want someone beside Trump, Clinton, Johnson or Stein move toward a new independent candidate then evangelicals could salvage some of their credibility and perhaps take part in a political miracle.
Go check out Oppenheimer’s article. He provides a look at Metaxas’ support from a Jewish perspective.

David Barton Claims "Doctorate in Education"

Not the first time. Is this a severe case of “degree envy?”
It appears to be a matter of great importance to Glenn Beck for David Barton to have an “actual doctorate.”
RWW’s Kyle Mantyla reports that Glenn Beck and David Barton were talking on Beck’s show and got into a conversation about Barton’s doctorate. Watch:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpaIQJmJZiM[/youtube]
As Mantyla points out, Barton’s education is spelled out on his website bio.

David holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oral Roberts University and an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Pensacola Christian College.

Ordinarily honorary doctorates are not considered “actual doctorates” because there is no program of studies which lead to the award of the degree. The degree is an honor but should not be relied on to communicate expertise.
If Barton has an earned doctorate, good for him. Now he needs to disclose where he earned it. Otherwise, he and Beck should admit and repent of their academic fraud.
This one ranks up there with Barton’s claim that he played Division One basketball in college and translated for Russia’s Olympic gymnastic team.
Of course, the book Beck was promoting with the segment is entitled “Liars: How Progressives Exploit Our Fears for Power and Control.” And Beck says I am the “liberal bastard.”

World Vision Gaza Official Arrested in Israel Accused of Siphoning Money to Hamas

World Vision put out a presser on this developing story. Here is a BBC article from today describing Israel’s arrest of a World Vision official accused of diverting funds to Hamas.

Statement on World Vision Staff Arrest

Media contact

Cynthia Colin

Corporate Communications Senior Director
ccolin@ worldvision.org
m 202.436.1266
p 202.572.6595
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
World Vision subscribes to the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality and therefore rejects any involvement in any political, military or terrorist activities and maintains its independence as a humanitarian aid agency committed to serving the poor, especially children. World Vision has detailed procedures and control mechanisms in place to ensure that the funds entrusted to us are spent in accordance with applicable legal requirements and in ways that do not fuel conflict but rather contribute to peace.
World Vision programs in Gaza have been subject to regular internal and independent audits, independent evaluations, and a broad range of internal controls aimed at ensuring that assets reach their intended beneficiaries and are used in compliance with applicable laws and donor requirements. Based on the information available to us at this time, we have no reason to believe that the allegations are true. We will carefully review any evidence presented to us and will take appropriate actions based on that evidence. We continue to call for a fair legal process.
World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. World Vision has been working in Israel/Palestine for over 40 years, striving to give hope to over 500,000 of the most vulnerable children, through education, health, child protection and resilience programs.

– See more at: http://www.worldvision.org/press-release/statement-world-vision-staff-arrest#sthash.wBHw9EWX.dpuf

Earlier this evening I spoke with a former World Vision source who said diverting funds would be very difficult but not impossible.

I Was on Washington Watch at 5:20pm Today to Discuss My Reaction to Wayne Grudem's Trump Support

Plans are for me to be on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show at 5:20pm today to discuss my reaction to Wayne Grudem’s article on Trump as a moral choice.
The show is live at http://www.frc.org/radio.
Well that was brief.
Out of the entire response to Grudem, Mr. Klukowski wanted to discuss the Iowa Civil Rights Commission situation. He took issue with my description of it but due to the ending of the segment, I did not get to relate my understanding of it. Klukowski is the attorney for one of the churches in Iowa which brought suit against the Iowa Civil Right Commission over a 2007 law in Iowa including sexual orientation and gender identity to the state non-discrimination statute.  I wrote several posts about the situation here, here, here, and here.
In essence, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission put out guidance in 2008 which appeared to extend the law’s coverage to churches, even during Sunday services. However, since the law was passed no church had ever been accused by the Commission of violating the law. In fact, the guidance language was not clear and once the lawsuit was filed, the Commission changed the language to better reflect the fact that churches were exempt from the law in their ministry activities. If a church runs a business offering a non-religious good or service to the public (e.g., a day care with no religious purpose), then the law applies. However, church services, religious day cares and/or other ministries are exempt.
In addition to the chair of the Commission, I had contact with the lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom legal firm who was also involved in the case. I look forward to carrying on that conversation.
Back to the Grudem article, if I had the opportunity, I wanted to say that there are two broad arguments one can make on behalf of a presidential candidate, one based on moral qualities and the other based on a pro and con policy analysis. Grudem stipulated that Trump was flawed but claimed that he offered the best policies. However, he provided no data. We have a saying around our department at Grove City College:

In God we trust, all others must bring data.

Grudem brought no data.
In my response to Grudem, I wanted to demonstrate, using data, that the case for Trump was not clear cut. In fact, reviewing the analyses from experts of all political persuasions, the case against Trump is stronger than for him.
Making an empirical argument requires evidence and Grudem didn’t specify any evidence. I believe he abused his position by citing the verse in James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). That Grudem believes a vote for Trump is right is on him. I am not responsible to act based on his determination and he is presumptuous to imply that it is sin not to vote for Trump.
 

 

An Answer to Wayne Grudem about Donald Trump and What is Best for the Nation

Last week, theology professor Wayne Grudem created quite a stir with an essay declaring his belief that “voting for Trump is a morally good choice.” In this rebuttal, I argue in opposition to his position.
It is important to note at the beginning that Grudem has opined on moral issues surrounding presidential behavior in the past. In 1998 along with over 150 Christian scholars, Grudem signed the “Declaration concerning religion, ethics, and the crisis in the Clinton presidency.” In that document, the signers stopped short of support for impeachment but expressed doubt about Clinton’s expressions of remorse. As a rebuke to Clinton, the signers took a strong position in favor of moral behavior on the part of elected officials. In 1998, Grudem agreed with the following statement:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. (emphasis mine)

Acknowledging that Trump is flawed, Grudem has now carved out a more pragmatic ethic to justify his endorsement:

I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.

In 1998, Grudem was not as pragmatic with Bill Clinton. Now he says about Trump:

But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.

So now according to Grudem, Christians should vote in a way that seeks the welfare of the nation concluding:

Therefore the one overriding question to ask is this: Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?

In my view, Grudem was closer to correct in 1998. The moral qualities of “truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power” are critical to the survival of our system of government. It is not hard to make a case that Donald Trump has disqualified himself on each one of those principles.  In fact, Grudem seems to agree when he writes:

He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages. These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.

I don’t think Grudem goes far enough. Trump has not been truthful (e.g., he said he knew Putin, then he said he didn’t), there is evidence he has not treated his subcontractors with integrity, he surely has not treated others with dignity (e.g., constant name-calling and ridicule of people’s flaws) and he has shown a willingness to overreach his power (e.g., suppressing the press, saying he would order the military to commit war crimes). We haven’t even scratched the surface of his nod to white supremacists (e.g., granting press credentials to white supremacists). However, in my response here, I won’t fully chronicle the ways Trump has disqualified himself according to the moral qualities which Grudem affirmed in 1998. I think when confronted with the overwhelming evidence, he would stipulate that.
Grudem in 2016 is using a different standard to come to an ethical decision. Thus, I want to address what Grudem says is his overriding question: “Which vote is most likely to bring the best results for the nation?”
On that question, I can see no justification for a vote for Trump given what Trump has said he wants to do as president.
Grudem’s essay purports to provide specifics about Trump’s positions on various topics. In general, I think he has presented the most optimistic slant on those policy statements. He also provides no citations or evidence. While I haven’t provided an exhaustive analysis either, my purpose is to demonstrate that credible evidence exists that Trump is not the best choice for the nation and that compromising moral qualities is not required given the risk involved in a Trump administration.
Costs of Immigration Promises
In his essay, Grudem talks about the tax and economic policies of Trump and Clinton. However, it appears he has not studied them or consulted with experts about the effects of those policies. Let’s start with Trump’s promise to deport over 11 million undocumented immigrants. In addition to the human rights catastrophes (raids, family separation and instability, etc.) which would occur, the economic impact would be a disaster.
According to a Wall Street Journal analysis, that promise would hit the economy hard, costing at least $400 billion. In addition, the loss of workers would cause a $1 trillion drain on the gross domestic product. This does not include the cost of building a wall along the Mexican border which has been estimated at another $25 billion. Not surprisingly, Trump disagrees with these estimates, but has provided no numbers of his own.
Can we afford this? Is this best for the nation?
Taxes
As with other policy matters, Grudem’s discussion of Trump’s tax plan seems to be little more than his opinion. Trump has promised a tax cut but he has also promised to leave social security alone. In general, he promises to cut taxes while increasing government services (e.g., veteran’s benefits).  His method of paying for his increases in government spending (e.g., increases services, deportation force, building a wall, etc.) is to cut waste, fraud and abuse. Certainly, Grudem knows that every presidential candidate promises to do that. Furthermore, there isn’t enough waste to cut to get the budget balanced with Trump’s tax cuts while increasing government spending. According to the Tax Policy Center, Trump’s tax plan will reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over a decade and increase the national debt by 80% of the gross domestic product.
Is this best for the nation?
Trade, Jobs and the Poor 
Grudem believes in a straight line between lower taxes and more jobs. However, one must also consider the impact of Trump’s threatened trade wars. According to a National Foundation for American Policy study of Trump’s proposed tariffs, American families would have to pay between $11,000 and $30,000 more for imported goods over five years depending on how widely the tariffs would be applied.
Higher costs hurt the poor. Of course, since he’s rich, Trump doesn’t care about costs. According to Market Watch, Trump brushed off concerns about higher costs:

“Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Trump scoffed at a New Jersey event this month. I suppose when you’re super wealthy like he is, it doesn’t matter if the price of a TV or pair of sneakers or even a car goes up 35% to 45%. But when you’re just about anyone else, it matters. A lot.

According to Market Watch, the jobs of one in six people are connected to trade and other jobs, particularly those on the lower end of the spectrum would be at risk since everybody’s costs would go up.
The conservative National Chamber of Commerce agrees that Trump’s policies would lead to recession. They cite a non-partisan Moody’s analysis which shows Trump’s proposals leading to dire economic consequences. According to Moody’s analysis, unemployment would rise to 7 percent with 3.5 million jobs lost. They predict a lengthy recession.
Is this best for the nation?
Health Care
Trump promises to replace Obamacare with something else. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget projects that Trump’s healthcare proposals would cost between $330-500 billion, and lead to 21 million more uninsured. These estimates are based on his current proposals which contradict other promises and preferences he has expressed about healthcare. Trump has expressed support for a single payer plan where the government control Grudem fears would be front and center.
Is this best for the nation?
National Debt
According to the CRFB, Trump’s campaign proposals in total are much more costly that Clinton’s. Over a decade, Trump’s plans would add $11.5 trillion to the national debt, whereas Clinton’s would add only $250 billion.
Is adding $11.5 trillion to the national debt best for the nation?
Foreign policy
Grudem seems to like Trump’s tough talk. He writes:

Trump will not let China and Russia and Iran push us around anymore, as Obama has done, with Hillary Clinton’s support when she was secretary of state. If Trump is anything, he is tough as nails, and he won’t be bullied.

Does Grudem not read the news? Trump melts when Vladimir Putin expresses the faintest positive sentiment. Trump said Putin called him a “genius,” however that’s not true. He said on at least two occasions that he had a good relationship with Putin only to say later that he didn’t know Putin and had never met him.
Worse is Trump’s vacillation on NATO and what he would do if Russia invaded a NATO ally. He said we might not intervene. Trump said he would look at recognizing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. There are possible conflicts of interest when it comes to Russia which have not been fully explored by the press.
For these and numerous other reasons, over 120 Republican foreign policy experts and advisors signed a letter opposing Trump’s candidacy. Former national security adviser to Presidents Ford and Bush Brent Scowcroft and former George W. Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage have come out in favor of Clinton. For me on foreign policy, these experts carry more influence than theology professor Grudem.
I don’t believe Trump is best for the nation when it comes our relations with other nations.
Supreme Court Justices and Religious Liberty
Grudem paints the worst imaginable scenario in his discussion of Supreme Court justices and uses some less than honest rhetoric to do it. He says under Clinton “the nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.”
There is a lot wrong with these statements. Currently, federal judges are unelected. Nothing would change there. That is our constitutional system. If judicial power is abused, there are checks and balances which are available. That would be true under Trump or Clinton.
If Clinton’s judicial appointments are viewed as too liberal, the Senate can stall the process, as they are doing now. The current situation with Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland demonstrates how Congress can exert influence. Surely, Grudem recalls the negative vote on Reagan appointee Robert Bork. Congress has held up numerous federal appointments over the years and they will not lose any abilities under Clinton.
Although Supreme Court appointments is a popular fall back position for evangelical Trump supporters, not all conservative legal scholars agree. For instance, the libertarian publication Reason polled 10 conservative scholars and found very little support for Trump. Readers should consider what all of them said but here is a modest sample:

Roger Pilon
Director of Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute
Assuming Trump were to follow through on his list of possible Supreme Court nominees, that would be a reason to support him, but there are countervailing reasons to oppose him that are, I believe, far more important. The Court will correct itself in time, I hope, but it is the character of the Republican Party and, more broadly and crucially, of our very nation that is at stake in this election. Hillary Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate, to be sure, but the election of Donald Trump would so defile the party of Lincoln and America itself that it must be resisted. He is an aberration that we must get past, and quickly.

The other conservative legal scholars took similar positions, some more vehemently, some more timidly. However, a clear consensus was that the clear potential for damage to the Republican party and the nation outweighs the potential benefit of Supreme Court appointments.
On religious liberty, not all of Grudem’s scenarios are accurate and so it is difficult to respond to this concern. For instance, Grudem claims

some churches in Iowa have now been told that they have to make their bathrooms open to people on the basis of their “gender identity” if the churches are going to be open to the public at all.

This is simply not true. No church in Iowa has been told this as a condition of being “open to the public.” It is true that the Iowa Commission on Civil Rights issued poorly worded guidance eight years ago which caused confusion but no church has ever been forced to comply with Iowa non-discrimination law in ministry activities.
There is always a need to be vigilant when it comes to constitutional rights. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected, there will be places in the country where religious and other rights conflict. These issues must be handled on a case by case basis in light of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. However, concern about religious liberty is not the only issue of importance. Consequently, it doesn’t seem best for the nation to focus exclusively on getting more originalists on the Supreme Court.
Who is Best for the Nation?
For some Christian voters, deciding who gets their vote might come down to a decision that the potential for higher national debt, job killing trade wars, a chaotic and potentially dangerous foreign policy, draconian deportation practices, more racial division, and more people without health insurance are worth the possibility of additional conservative appointments to the Supreme Court. However, others will not. If we are selecting a candidate based on what is best for the nation, Trump is not as clear cut a choice as Grudem makes it seem. In fact, his essay is an insult to the intelligence of those who believe both candidates have disqualified themselves.
If a vote for Trump is a moral choice, then I can’t see how a vote for Clinton is not one also. It probably comes down to which vision of the future each individual believes to be accurate. As I look at the evidence, I think Grudem sugar coated Trump and cast Clinton in the worst possible light. In any case, given how inadequate his analysis of Trump’s positions and character is, I think it is an abuse of his position as an evangelical leader to imply that there is a choice that good Christians should choose. If his standard no longer elevates moral qualities, then he needs to do a better job researching Trump’s proposals and what they portend.
For me, I will either vote for a person to be named later (e.g., betterforamerica.com), write someone in, or not vote for president. For me, this is the moral choice.