An Apostolic megachurch in a Miami suburb led by a pastor known for speaking in tongues on stage will host President Donald Trump next week when he is expected to issue a full-throated retort to calls from some in the Christian community for his removal from office.
The Trump campaign announced Friday — a week after a prominent Christian magazine called for his ouster— that the president’s planned Jan. 3 Evangelicals for Trump roll-out will take place at King Jesus International Ministry, believed to be one of the largest Hispanic churches in the country. The West Kendall church — the flagship of a chain of 10 affiliated congregations located from Chicago to Homestead — regularly draws thousands to its English-and Spanish-language services and boasts its own streaming platform.
The church, also called El Rey Jesus, has long been a popular stop for political candidates courting Hispanic votes. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott spoke there in 2010 on the Sunday before Election Day during the Republican primary for Florida governor, and congressional candidates in Florida’s 26th district regularly appear there during campaign season.
“It’s a massive congregation, with thousands of people. And it’s a lot of swing voters,” said Carlos Curbelo, a Republican former congressman who represented the area from 2015 until 2019.
“This is a political two-fer” for Trump, he added.
The church is led by head pastor Guillermo Maldonado, a 54-year-old Honduran immigrant who goes by the title of apostle. Maldonado — whose wife, Anna Maldonado, goes by the title of prophet — says he started his church in the mid-90s after being visited by God.
A person who answered the phone at the church’s office said the administration would be out until Jan. 2, and would not be able to comment until then. Attempts to reach Maldonado directly were not immediately successful.
Trump’s campaign announced plans to hold a campaign event for evangelicals last week after the magazine Christianity Today published a scathing editorial calling Trump’s pressure campaign to convince the government of Ukraine to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden “profoundly immoral.” The magazine backed articles of impeachment passed last week by House Democrats and called for the U.S. Senate to remove Trump from office.
Since then, dozens of prominent figures on the religious right have backed Trump and blasted Christianity Today, including the son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, who founded the magazine.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a question about how and why it chose El Rey Jesus as the site for the president’s religious-themed campaign event. In a press release, the campaign said “the event will bring together evangelicals from across the nation who support President Trump’s re-election.”
Miami Herald staff writer Michelle Marchante contributed to this story.