Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a gathering of the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Religious Right legal giant, on Tuesday morning. He used the opportunity to tout the administration’s record on issues important to the group and thank ADF for supporting the administration.
Pence began with opening remarks that echoed President Trump’s statements yesterday about the shootings in El Paso and Dayton over the weekend, saying that the “sinister ideologies” of racism, bigotry and white supremacy “must be defeated.” He said that “now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside.”
Pence described faith as “the greatest source of community in the modern world.” But, he said, “we live in a time where we’ve seen people driving religion from the public square” and when it has become “fashionable” for people in the media and popular culture to mock religious belief. “The freedom of religion was enshrined in the Bill of Rights as our first freedom, because it was at the center of the American founding,” Pence said, “and also because it’s the wellspring of order in a free society.” He quoted John Adams’ famous statement that the U.S. Constitution was “made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
That’s why, he said, President Trump “has stood for the freedom of religion and stood with people of faith.” Pence cited a litany of administration actions that he said protected freedom of speech, the rights of conscience, and religious expression in the public square, and praised ADF for having “been there every step of the way.”
His brief remarks were followed by him sitting on stage for a short interview with ADF President Mike Farris, a longtime Religious Right activist. Pence asked the audience to applaud Farris for his “lifetime of leadership.”
Farris’s first question was about abortion, and Pence said “It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as vice president to a president who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life.” He bragged that the administration has reinstated and expanded the scope of the so-called Mexico City policy, and that he cast the tie-breaking vote for a bill Trump signed into law that “allowed states to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“I’ve long believed that a society can be judged by how it deals with its most vulnerable—the aged, the infirm, disabled, and the unborn.”
Pence praised Trump for making a priority of defending religious freedom around the world. He told a story about meeting a parish priest from Nicaragua at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s first “ministerial” gathering on religious freedom, talking about the regime there “allowing violence against Catholic Churches.” As RWW has reported, the teacher whose conservative cabinet Bible Study is sponsored by Pence recently traveled to Nicaragua at the invitation of that country’s president to arrange for a similar Bible study ministry to be set up for government officials there.
Farris praised the Trump administration for its judicial nominees, saying, “everyone I know who works in this arena shares the view that I have, that for those of us who value constitutional originalism and the rule of law, your administration has appointed judges who are just consistently outstanding.”
Pence said the administration is “incredibly proud” of his Supreme Court nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and other “incredible people” now serving on the courts.
Farris also asked Pence about free speech on campus and about how he handles criticism gracefully. His final question was about what “spiritual lessons” he might have to offer other Christians who often feel demeaned for their faith. He talked about making time for prayer and Bible reading, and urged people to “never lose sight of the blessing that it is to be an American.”
“We’re always striving for a more perfect union,” he said, adding that “you all are a part of that march, advancing the principles, of life, and family and freedom.”
“I really do believe that He who planted this miracle of democracy on these wilderness shores centuries ago has blessed America throughout our history and has blessed the world, and He will still bless America in the days ahead,” Pence said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is the largest Religious Right legal group, with a budget of more than $50 million and a “legal army” of allied attorneys who give ADF an expanding footprint within the U.S. justice system, on the judiciary and around the world. It has fought legal equality for LGBTQ people overseas as well as in the U.S. and promotes anti-transgender legislation and school board policies. It is a major driver of the Religious Right’s strategy to redefine religious liberty. Its lawyers have bragged about their strategic plan to overturn Roe v Wade and bring about a ban on abortion.
Farris, who founded the Home School Legal Defense Association and built it into a political powerhouse, joined ADF early in the Trump administration. He is the founder of Patrick Henry College, designed to prepare Christian home-schooled students for positions in government. Before joining ADF he was the leader of the Convention of States, an effort to get state legislatures to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments that would essentially re-write the U.S. Constitution to dramatically restrict the authority of the federal government.