President Donald Trump spoke to Religious Right activists at Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington, D.C., this morning, and reaffirmed promises he made to them during the 2016 presidential election campaign—promises on issues ranging from abortion to the IRS code, which contributed to his success at the polls in key states. Trump’s pledge to appoint only anti-abortion judges and justices is said to have paved the way for Religious-Right leaders to endorse his candidacy, despite his two divorces and the release of a videotape that revealed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women.
Before Trump took the stage at Road to Majority, a small handful of Religious Right activists warmed up the crowd. Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia preceded Trump’s speech, and told the audience that faith is necessary for freedom to exist, and that the secularization of America is contributing to issues like crime and heightened divorce rates.
Ralph Reed, a Republican political operative who worked to turn out evangelical voters for Trump’s 2016 campaign, told conference attendees that Road to Majority organizers were honored to have Trump there for his sixth appearance at the conference, adding that Trump had told Reed that he was honored to be invited to address the group.
The invocation was delivered by Sister Rose Wangui, a Roman Catholic nun, who, in her prayer, described Trump as God’s “anointed one.” Trump’s Democratic opponents, she declared, support an “abortion industry” that she claimed is feeding “demonic spirits…that drink the blood of unborn babies.” She declared that abortion procedures were “worse than terrorism.”
Praying before Trump speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference, Sister Rose Wangui says that the abortion industry is feeding the demonic spirits “that drink the blood of unborn babies.” pic.twitter.com/1kOxc9XSEF
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) June 26, 2019
“Father, we want to thank you for the gift our president, for his excellency, President Trump. We pray for him, we ask you, Father, that you may cover him with the power of your precious blood—to the top of his head to the bottom of his feet,” Wangui said. “Protect him, Father. He is your anointed one.”
After Wangui prayed, Reed returned to the podium and lauded Trump for his alliance to the Religious Right.
“There has never been anyone who has defended us and fought for us who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one,” Reed said.
Ralph Reed declares that there has never been a political leader that evangelicals have loved more than they loved Trump. pic.twitter.com/lfET3xhiAP
— Right Wing Watch (@RightWingWatch) June 26, 2019
Trump took the stage, but soon thereafter invited to the podium former United States Secretary of Education and conservative pundit Bill Bennett, who was seated in the crowd. Bennett’s remarks were short but plentiful in praise for the president. Trump said Bennett was a “fighter for good.”
Trump’s speech was a greatest-hits mashup of the message he’s delivered to the Religious Right in the last several years at conferences like Road to Majority and Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit. Despite the summer heat outside, Trump made special note to remind activists in the audience that the phrase “Merry Christmas” was being used by his administration.
“We’re saying Merry Christmas again. Did you notice? Did you remember?” Trump said.
He also said that his administration wouldn’t enforce the Johnson Amendment, which prevents houses of worship that claim tax-exempt status from endorsing political candidates, joking that he could decide to “bring it back” if pastors “speak against me.” Then Trump said he was joking. The Trump administration has discussed repealing the amendment so that right-wing pastors can shower the president in praise from their pulpits.
Trump assured Religious Right activists in the audience that he was a champion for their cause and that he would protect them from the supposed “assault” he claimed they faced prior to his administration taking office. Trump claimed that because of his policies, American universities were more careful when considering whether to boot religious and conservative speakers who sought to host events on their campuses.
“We’re fighting for all Americans and we’re embracing the faith community. We are embracing it like it hasn’t been embraced in many, many years. You know that, and when we’re doing that, we’re uplifting our nation. We’re greatly uplifting our nation. When I asked for your support in 2016, Americans of faith were under assault. But the shameful attempt to suppress religious believers ended the day I took the oath of office,” Trump said.
“Four more years!” the audience chanted multiple times.
Then Trump praised Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., saying that Falwell had been one of his earliest supporters, alongside pastor Robert Jeffress. The duo, Trump said, acknowledged that even though Trump “may not be the best at the Bible,” he was “the best” for them. In August 2015, Trump had claimed that the Bible was his favorite book but stumbled when asked to name his favorite verse.
Despite the the Democrats’ success in wresting control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans in 2018, Trump repeatedly insisted that Republicans “have more energy” for their own cause. He specifically shouted out women who support his administration, before telling conference attendees to embrace their roles as “activists.”
Trump lauded Fox News for the channel’s fawning coverage of his administration, adding a disclaimer: “They could do better …, he said, “but at least they’re fair.” Trump also took a moment to muse at the marvel of TiVo, which was introduced in 1999, for its ability to record and play back Fox News Channel shows that he said he has later showed his wife, Melania.
The president also spoke at length about his administration’s Israel policy—long a pet project of the Religious Right—and its recognition of the Golan Heights as sovereign territory of Israel. He also touted his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, which earned him applause, as did his citation of the sanctions he imposed on the Middle Eastern nation.
He ended his speech promising to combat socialism and affirming his promises to work on behalf of the Religious Right.
“In America, we reject the failed socialist ideology of government domination. You’ll end up with another Venezuela right here, and it won’t take very long. Our rights don’t come from politicians, they come from the creator,” Trump said.
He added, “Above all else we know this, in America we don’t worship government. We worship God.”