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Religious leaders hail, hammer President Trump’s first State of the Union speech

President Trump claps at his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 30, 2018, in Washington. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP; caption amended by RNS)

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Reaction to President Trump’s first State of the Union was fast and furious from opponents and supporters of his definition of immigration reform and his approach to religious liberty.

In his 80-minute speech, the president declared Tuesday (Jan. 30) that “Americans are dreamers too” and said, “The motto is, ‘In God we trust.'”

He opened describing “the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine” and told tearful family members of victims of MS-13 gang members, “Everyone in this chamber is praying for you.”

The president affirmed the importance of faith and family and vowed to protect people of every creed and religion.

“As long as we are proud of who we are and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve,” he said as he closed his remarks. “As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens and trust in our God, we will never fail.”

Here is a sampling of responses from religious leaders and faith organizations:

Tony Perkins, president, Family Research Council

“The president spoke from the heart about our shared values as Americans. One of those values that binds us together is reflected in our motto; that we are one nation under God. President Trump understands that our freedom to unite under God has been under steady assault — and he’s spent the last year reversing this devastating trend. The reality is that if Americans don’t have the freedom to live according to their faith — whether it’s in the home, in the workplace, or in school — then we really can’t be free.”

Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance

“Trump clearly doesn’t know what the words ‘religious liberty’ mean if he thinks he’s taken historic action to protect it. His actions in his first year as president have in fact significantly undermined the rights of people of faith whose beliefs don’t align with the president’s allies in the Religious Right.”

Paula White, senior pastor, New Destiny Christian Center, Apopka, Fla.

“President Trump has demonstrated yet again his sincere commitment to the success of all Americans, whether or not, they voted for him. The state of our union is strong because we have a tireless leader who has, in a single year, brought more security, prosperity, and opportunity to America than we have seen in decades combined. This is an achievement which we all ought to celebrate.”

The Rev. William J. Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach

“We would do well to remember that the leadership of every white supremacy campaign in US history has called for ‘peace’ and ‘good order.’ In the history of the world, some of our most extreme leaders have asked us to focus on nationalistic pride and economic success alone. But until we begin to understand how extreme policy in America today is driven by a fear of the browning and blackening of this nation’s demographics, we will not see clearly why so-called ‘America first’ enthusiasts are willing to sell out American democracy and the American intelligence community.”

Sisters of Mercy

Gary P. Saltzman and Daniel S. Mariaschin, officials of B’nai B’rith International

“In his address, Trump also stressed infrastructure rebuilding. We had hoped his plan would call attention to the dearth of affordable housing for seniors. B’nai B’rith, the largest national Jewish sponsor of low-income housing for older Americans, has a nearly half-century commitment to safe, affordable housing for older persons. Any infrastructure plans should include helping seniors of low-income live independently, safely and securely.”

The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

“In order to solve the nation’s most serious challenges, we all must come together as one people who share one common destiny. We must work together, Democrats and Republicans, Independents and Libertarians, the Green Party and the Tea Party, to care for the both Dreaming child and the unborn; for the addict and the inmate; for the alien on our shores and the native-born forgotten man and woman. We can do it all, but it will require us all.”

Council on American-Islamic Relations

Pastor Mark Burns, CEO of The NOW Television Network in Easley, S.C.

World Relief

“We are heartened by the President’s promise to work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion on multiple initiatives. Likewise, we are convinced that our nation is poised to achieve a permanent legislative solution to protect 1.8 million Dreamers and provide for them a pathway to citizenship. While we celebrate this progress, we also pray this is just the beginning of a more compassionate posture toward immigrants who face various kinds of vulnerability.”

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Other reactions on Twitter

RNS reporter Emily McFarlan Miller put together this roundup of mentions of religion in the State of the Union, and reactions of religious figures:

 

 

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

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