Top U.S. Latino evangelical leader says Donald Trump not a racist, chides Franklin Graham for leaving GOP

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez says the racist tag placed on Donald Trump is 'just hyperbole from the liberal media.'(Facebook/Rev. Samuel Rodriguez)

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the head of America's largest Latino evangelical organisation, said he does not believe that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is a "racist" as media has labelled him.

In an exclusive interview with CBN News on Thursday, Rodriguez also chided evangelist Franklin Graham for leaving the Republican Party and called on Christians not to forsake the transgender people.

Speaking as the president of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, which oversees 40,000 evangelical congregations throughout the U.S., Rodriguez said the racist tag placed on Trump is "just hyperbole from the liberal media" which he said he does not "believe is accurate whatsoever."

He acknowledged though that Trump's rhetoric on immigration is counter-productive.

Since he started campaigning, Trump has called some Mexican immigrants as "rapists," "criminals" and "drug dealers," incurring the ire of many Hispanics.

Rodriguez said he disagrees with Trump's view on Latino immigrants, saying that although it's true that some of them are criminals, most are "God-fearing, beautiful people."

"The vast majority are not rapists or murderers," he said, "They're actually born-again Christians, committed to biblical orthodoxy or very staunch conservative Catholics."

Shifting to another issue, Rodriguez criticised Franklin Graham for announcing in December that he was resigning from the Republican Party to focus on biblical values.

"This election, religious liberty and the Supreme Court are at stake and for you (Graham) to say 'I'm abandoning the party. I'm no longer part of the party,'—it may convey a confusing message," Rodriguez said.

He said Graham's action may prompt some Christians not to vote in the coming election, and if that happens, "the Supreme Court is gone for generations to come."

The Latino evangelical leader also chided Graham for conveying the message that the "Republican Party is the reason why America is experiencing so much darkness without addressing the Democratic Party."

Commenting on the new bathroom law in North Carolina, Rodriguez said he supports the law because "it's wrong for a male, a physiologically defined male, to step into a restroom where a 6-year-old little girl is in there."

However, he said Christians should not abandon the transgender people and show that they also care for them. He said one way to do this is to call for unisex bathrooms for them. "That's the way we solve this," he said, "so we're not intolerant, we're accommodating the transgender reality. At the same time, we're not sacrificing the safety of children throughout America."

Finally, Rodriguez urged Christians to serve as "lights in the darkness."

"At the end of the day, instead of cursing the darkness, instead of whining about the darkness, instead of complaining about the darkness—why not turn on the light? That's my call, let's be light," he said.