While millions of Americans spent Thursday glued to television coverage of former FBI director James Comey’s testimony, Donald Trump took time to bask in the adulation of Religious Right activists who gathered in D.C. for Road to Majority, the annual conference hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Amid these conservative Christians, Trump didn’t need to worry about hearing a discouraging word or being challenged about his habitual lying. “We love him because he is our friend,” said Reed. Trump returned the sentiment, saying, “You didn’t let me down and I will never, ever let you down, you know that.”
Reed and Trump both cited the overwhelming support Trump received from white evangelical voters. Trump recalled that he had appeared at the conference last year asking for their support and prayers, and “boy did you deliver.” Reed praised Trump for focusing “like a laser beam” on winning evangelical support “and that’s why he’s the president of the United States today.”
Trump touted his accomplishments: the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, filling the Cabinet with people who “share our values,” withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and his proposed “historic” tax cut. And, of course, he bragged about having signed an executive order “to protect religious liberty in America” and to “stop the Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.” Perhaps in a nod to those Religious Right activists who were disappointed that his order did not include sweeping exemptions for LGBT discrimination in the name of religion, Trump assured the audience, “Believe me, we’re not finished yet.”
Trump cited the Bible, reading from a verse in Isaiah, as well as more vaguely stating:
[A]s the Bible tells us, we know that the truth will prevail, that God’s glorious wisdom will shine through, and that the good and decent people of this country will get the change they voted for and that they so richly deserve.
Trump seemingly, but vaguely, endorsed Christian-nation activists’ goal of returning official prayer and religious instruction into the nation’s schools, saying schools “should not be a place that drive out faith and religion, but that should welcome faith and religion with wide-open beautiful arms.”
Trump also endorsed Religious Right fearmongering about the religious freedom of conservative Christians being under attack in America, saying “It is time to put a stop to the attacks on religion.” He promised, “As long as I’m president, no one is going to stop you from practicing your faith or preaching what is in your heart.”
And in a line recycled from his speech at Liberty University last month, Trump said, “In America we don’t worship government, we worship God.”
Trump trashed Democrats as “obstructionists” and urged the activists to give him bigger Republican majorities in the House and Senate in the 2018 elections.
Reed had kicked off the luncheon by bragging about conservative electoral victories since his coalition was formed in 2010, and mocking mainstream media predictions about the Religious Right’s demise. Among the speakers who preceded Trump were Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Senator Ted Cruz.
Paxton bragged about how many times Texas had sued the federal government during his tenure. Among the cases he cited was a challenge to federal Department of Education rules on transgender students’ access to bathrooms; he said the state’s legal challenge to the Obama administration rules had delayed their implementation until the Trump administration dropped them. Paxton said that if Hillary Clinton had been elected and was able to name a Supreme Court justice to replace the late Antonin Scalia, “we were likely going to be in a post-constitutional America.” That didn’t happen, he said, thanks to the prayers and political work of Christian conservatives, “Praise God.”
Introducing Cruz, Reed called him “one of the fiercest, one of the toughest, one of the most valiant defenders of our values, not only in the U.S. Senate today, but of anyone who has ever served in the U.S. Senate.”
“It is June of 2017, and Hillary Clinton is not the president of the United States,” Cruz said, “and Neil Gorsuch is a Supreme Court justice, which demonstrates that elections matter.” But Cruz pushed his fellow GOPers, saying, “We have a Republican majority in the House. We have a Republican majority in the Senate. We have a Republican in the White House. How about we act like it?”
Also speaking before Trump was Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, who declared, “We are in a war for the future of this republic.” He listed the New Deal, Great Society, and Obamacare and Dodd-Frank as consequences of Democratic supermajorities. “The great progressive experiment of the last 100 years, with bigger and bigger government, has failed, period.”
Perdue praised Trump for doing what he said he’d do on the Supreme Court, regulation, and immigration and praised his trip to the Middle East. “Look, this president is nobody’s choir boy, right?” said Perdue to chuckles from the audience, “But he is a man of action.”