Donald Trump’s attempt to reach out to America’s religious right nudged towards to farce on Monday when he fluffed a bible reference while talking at a famous Christian college.

Mr Trump, whose invitation to speak at Liberty University in Virginia was opposed by some students, sought to burnish his religious credentials among conservatives who have been suspicious of him.

“We're going to protect Christianity. I can say that. I don't have to be politically correct,” said Mr Trump.

 “Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame...is that the one you like?”

Politico reported Mr Trump was seeking to refer to the verse which reads:  “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

However, a number in the crowd reportedly sniggered and several of the students audibly corrected him, pointing out that most Christians say “second Corinthians,” not “two Corinthians.”

Rival campaigns noticed the error immediately and poked fun on Twitter. Brian Phillips, a senior aide to Mr Trump’s rival, Senator Ted Cruz, wrote on Twitter: “What is “Two Corinthians”?”

With a typical display of swagger that has come to be expected from the tycoon, Mr Trump then made a comparison between the bible and one of his own books, The Art of the Deal, his best-selling business tome.

“The Art of the Deal is second to the bible,” Mr Trump said. As for other books, he added: “The bible blows them away. There’s nothing like it, the bible.”

 “Two Corinthians, 3:17, that’s the whole ballgame … is that the one you like?”

American conservatives do not represent a monolithic block, and while Mr Trump has earned support from some, many on the religious right have doubted whether the real estate billionaire is sufficiently religious, or sufficiently socially conservative for them.

Last summer, Mr Trump raised eyebrows among some evangelicals by declining to identify his favourite bible verse, saying that it was “very personal” to him.

He subsequently said that he would choose Proverbs 24, telling the Christian Broadcasting Network: “Proverbs 24 teaches that envy should be replaced with discernment. Wisdom builds and understanding establishes, whether it be a family, a house, or our community.” 

His visit to Liberty University, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, an American evangelical Southern Baptist pastor, was a chance to try and boost his credibility among this important community. 

All Republican hopefuls would try and speak at the college, and some Democrats too. In recent weeks Senators Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, and Ben Carson have addressed the college.

Mr Trump delivered his speech as the British parliament held a non-binding debate on whether or not to ban the tycoon from the UK.

The debate was triggered after half a million people signed a petition call for him Trump to be excluded after he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US. 

Mr Trump told the students at Liberty that he would protect Christianity.

“We’re going to protect Christianity,” he said. “Somehow we have to unify. We have to band together. We have to do really, in a really large version, what they’ve done at Liberty. Because Liberty University has done that.”

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