President Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s "Road to Majority" conference in Washington, D.C., on June 8, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Trump: ‘It’s time to put a stop to attacks on religion’

WASHINGTON (RNS) President Trump told his political base of evangelical Christians that he would continue to restore the religious liberty many of them feel they've lost.

"It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion," Trump said in a speech Thursday (June 8) to the Faith and Freedom Coalition that began shortly after former FBI Director James Comey questioned the president's integrity at a Capitol Hill hearing.

"We will end the discrimination against people of faith. Our government will once again celebrate and protect religious freedom," Trump, a Presbyterian not known to be particularly religious, told more than 1,000 people in a hotel ballroom across town from the hearing.

He said he and his audience were "under siege."


READ: What's next for the pro-life, religious liberty crowd?


The sentiment resonates with evangelicals, who often charge that American politics and culture has shunted them aside. Across the divide, other parts of the electorate accuse conservative Christians of using the government to impose their values on others.

So far, Trump's most loyal supporters seem to care more about his positions on their core issues than on the questions about his leadership raised in Comey’s testimony.

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Trump in his remarks did not directly refer to Comey's testimony, which riveted much of the nation that morning. But he did — after he read a verse from the Book of Isaiah — denounce his political enemies as lying obstructionists.

"Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow,” he said, quoting the biblical verse. Then he added:

"The entrenched interests and failed bitter voices in Washington will do everything in their power to try and stop us from this righteous cause, to try to stop all of you. They will lie, they will obstruct, they will spread their hatred and their prejudice, but we will not back down from doing what is right.

“Because as the Bible tells us, we know the truth will prevail,” he added.

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To sustained applause, Trump listed what he had done in his four months as president to help fulfill conservative Christians' agenda:

  • He nominated a Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, whom he described as a worthy successor to conservative hero Antonin Scalia.
  • He blocked federal funds for nonprofits that perform abortions abroad.
  • And he touted his executive order that last month directed the IRS to tread lightly with the federal regulation that bars pastors from politicking in the pulpit.

“The people that you most respect can now feel free to speak to you," Trump said. "That was a big deal. And it was a very important thing for me to do for you and we’re not finished yet, believe me."

President Trump and Neil Gorsuch, left, smile as Trump nominates Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 31, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Kevin Lamarque


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"As long as I am president no one is going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what is in your heart," Trump added.

The legal stricture in question, known as the Johnson Amendment, had hardly been enforced, and many pastors — including evangelicals  — say they don't feel it wise to endorse candidates from the pulpit. But some evangelical leaders told Trump that abolishing the amendment — only Congress can actually get rid of it — was a priority for them.


READ: Trump’s religious liberty order slammed as ‘pretty much nothing’


White evangelical Christians voted for Trump in November by larger margins than any other religious group — 81 percent.

"I want to know, who are the 19 percent?" he quipped, referring to those evangelicals who didn't vote for him. "Where did they come from?

"You didn't let me down and I will never, ever let you down, you know that," he promised. "We will always support our evangelical community."

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Trump is president in no small measure because he "focused like a laser beam on winning the support of evangelical voters and people of faith," Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, told the audience before Trump's speech.

The coalition is not exclusively evangelical. Some Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jews dotted the audience for Trump's address.

But the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which seeks to help elect those who hold their values into office and is meeting in Washington this week as part of its annual Road to Majority conference, is driven by evangelical Christians.

Melanie Harris, who works for a senator in the Maryland state Legislature, came to hear President Trump speak at the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference on June 8, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe


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James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family; the Rev. John Hagee, founder of San Antonio's Cornerstone Church; and Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, joined Trump at the event.

Though the crowd cheered the president frequently and gave him several standing ovations, at least one Trump voter wanted more from him.

"Everything he had to say was fantastic but it seemed very scripted, and I was hoping to hear more of something that I couldn't see on the news or read in the paper," said Melanie Harris, who works for a Maryland state senator.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a darling of the movement who also sought the presidency last year, spoke before Trump and told those attending to remember that they enjoy Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and a Republican in the White House.

Cruz spoke as Americans across the country digested Comey's testimony, which painted Trump as untrustworthy and disrespectful of the FBI's independence.

"There's a lot of noise. There's a lot of people lighting their hair on fire on cable television," said Cruz. "Ignore the political circus and let's focus on delivering results."

Comments

  1. The Christian religion, of course.

  2. Religious organizations pay no taxes, just like other not-for-profits like the Girl Scouts, the Lions’ Club, and the Sierra Club. These organizations can speak out about issues, they just can’t endorse candidates. How do you really feel about churches, as tax exempt organizations, openly supporting candidates? As it stands now organizations can advocate for the things that concern them — hunger relief, peacemaking, abortion, etc. . . without actually advocating for a specific candidate. If churches are okay with overthrowing the Johnson Act, they’ll become tax-free shelters for political candidates. This is disastrous.

  3. Then why is he continually attacking Muslims?

  4. Nothing wrong with attacking terrorists. Because, you know, they kill people.

  5. If the xtians want to know what REAL persecution feels like, they should visit a country like China to find out. Otherwise shut up. They are the ones persecuting everyone else who doesn’t agree with their make believe religion.

  6. Attacks on religion in the US exist only in Trump’s and the pseudo-Christians’ fevered imagination. There are, of course, real threats to our religious liberty — but they come from Trump and his pals on the extreme religious right, such threats as the wars on every American’s right not to be forced to support religious institutions (endangered by Trump’s and DeVos’s drive to divert public funds to church-run private schools through vouchers) and the war on women’s health, lives, and conscience rights on reproductive matters. — Edd Doerr

  7. “We will end the discrimination against people of faith…” – translation. We’re bringing back Christian privilege!

  8. When one’s approval rating continues to make no improvements (in fact, declines), one would think that business/political acumen would say change strategies. Instead of a Tea Party revolt, a revolt of moderate Republicans is needed. The only thing that Republicans appear to have going in their favour is the inability of the Democrats to get their house in order.

  9. The persecution fantasy is ridiculous.

  10. If you discriminate against me or criticize me it’s called religious freedom.

    If I return the favor it’s called persecution

  11. He attacks Muslims – the vast majority of whom are not terrorists.
    Attacking terrorists is fine – although Temporary President Trump fails to condemn terrorists who are NOT Muslim. Look at the deadly attacks by some deranged Christians that committed terrorism. He said NOTHING.

  12. Also – does discrediting completely and proving false count as an attack – or just sense?

  13. “Learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
    This administration is doing everything opposite of these goals! Cutting support programs for the poor, harming our healthcare so the sick are outpriced and the poor lose aid. How can you not see how much harm he is doing? He is precisely the OPPOSITE of what a Christian is.

  14. Why can’t we get God to do something rather than waiting for a feeble soul to say anything.

  15. It’s time to put a stop on attacks FROM religion.

  16. Yep that’s the Christian mindset

  17. The conservative Christian mindset. Liberal Christians don’t generally see it that way.

  18. Trump is in trouble with scandals, now he is saying simple things to the least intelligent citizens, to win easy points and get his ratings up. sound familiar? its just the way he got voted in!

  19. Moderate Republicans are an extinct species.

  20. I presume Trump meant to say: “It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion . . . because we need to force everyone’s energy to be focused on relentlessly attacking the news media.”

  21. Separation of church and state. Also, if he had bothered to do some research, he would see that there is already a law in place preventing organizations like Planned Parenthood from using federal funds for abortions. What he did was defund affordable contraceptives.

  22. This is ridiculous. There is no way a President should EVER be involved in such things. Allowing churches to be involved in politics without paying taxes is absolute bullshit. You want a voice? You pay for it just like the rest of us.

    Funny how Evangelicals Christians who are some of the most hateful, oppressive, intolerant, and largely ignorant people I’ve ever had the displeasure of coming across have a massive persecution complex. Transference much?

    There is no one standing outside their churches telling them they can’t go in. No one making legislation that discriminates against them. No one who matters judging them for being gay, black, non-believer.

  23. Touche. As a Texan transplanted to KS I know you speak the truth. For whatever reason, at times, as recently in the override of a veto by Governor Sam Brownback (a right-winger) a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans can emerge victorious and create a governing coalition. The reasons are elusive, but it is true in many of the legislative Districts, the real contest is in the Republican primaries between the far right and the less so. Democrats fare badly in some of these rural areas due to Civil War loyalty to the GOP, and the identification of the Democratic Party with the Chicago Machine and diversity. The same is so in neighboring Nebraska, with the members of its unicameral Senate elected on a nonpartisan basis. Democrats do well in the inner cities of Omaha and Lincoln and the Native American Reservations but poorly elsewhere and again the contest that matters is between types of Republicans.

    But on a national basis liberal and moderate Republicans are an endangered species. Think of names like Arlen Specter, Jacob Javits, Edward Brooke, Mark Kirk, Charles Percy, John Sherman Cooper, Charles Matthias, Clifford Case, Mark Hatfield. None of them are still around. Even most of those now called moderates like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Rob Portman, etc., are at least 80% conservative on all their votes.

  24. The recent headlines in Kansas are only in regards to the state’s tax & revenue situation.

    Other than that, the liberal Democrats know that they’ll get their well-earned punishments once again in 2018.
    After all, justice MUST be served!!

  25. Him & Pence don’t consider Islam a religion, so, yes, it’s ok. (NO, it is NOT ok!)

  26. No more attacks on Religion? Excellent, the war on Muslims practicing their faith is finally at an end in the United States. Bravo!

  27. Trump supports religious freedom? So he will fight against violence and discrimination directed at Muslims, Sikhs, and atheists?

  28. But they [the Democrats] have gone so far left, trying to appease a certain group, that I think they’ve made a horrible mistake…………..an excerpt from Trump’s speech

    That ‘certain group’ is the LGBT community. The Democrats and others continually work to ensure ‘that community’ is accepted and treated as declared in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence —
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    And also —

    No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

    Justice Anthony Kennedy
    June 26, 2015

  29. Sure. There ARE other issues that Kansas voters look at, besides taxes and budgets.

    In New York or CA, those “other issues” will surely help you get elected, if you’re a Democrat.

    But in Kansas, those “other issues” will usually help Democrats get defeated.

    (In fact, permanent deportation to Antarctica is not considered to be an unreasonable outcome, depending on how many liberal shenanigans are offered by the Democratic candidates.)

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