In an address to the Values Voter Summit Friday, President Donald Trump celebrated the power of the presidency to enforce Christian values.
Though much of Trump’s 30-minute remarks ran through his list of “promises I made you,” not one involved a successful congressional action, aside from the Senate’s confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Echoing the introduction of the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, who introduced the President, Trump bragged about his re-instating the Mexico City Policy by decree, cutting off funds to international organizations that at all promote abortion as a method of family planning.
He also noted an executive action “to prevent the horrendous Johnson amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights.”
The Johnson amendment prohibits non-profits, including religious organizations, from explicitly campaigning on behalf of political candidates. Though Trump signed an executive order instructing the Treasury Department to loosen its enforcement of the law, he does not have the constitutional power to eliminate it.
The President also mentioned that he had made “official” the National Day of Prayer. So did former President Barack Obama, via executive proclamation, eight years in a row.
And Trump reminded his audience of a peculiar focus of his since his early days on the campaign trail: “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again!”
Trump is the first sitting President to address the summit, which is organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group with deep political roots.
During his speech, the President extolled the values of the religious life and positioned them opposite an oppressive government bureaucracy.
“For too long, politicians have tried to centralize the authority among the hands of a small few in our nation’s capital,” he said. “Bureaucrats think they can run your lives, overrule your values, meddle in your faith, and tell you how to live, what to say, and how to pray. But we know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society.”
He added separately: “In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.”
The second half of Trump’s speech strayed into a laundry list of more general accomplishments, which were met with polite applause that grew louder at times: Promising tax and regulatory cuts, celebrating the trillions of dollars in stock market value “we’ve created,” and predicting “great health care in our county.”
“We’re taking a little different route than we had hoped,” Trump said of the latter point, weaving his hand through the air and noting that members of Congress unable to pass legislation repealing Obamacare had “forgotten what their pledges were.”
Trump on Thursday announced the White House would be ending key federal payments to insurance companies that subsidized coverage for the poor, among other changes, essentially sabotaging central elements of Obamacare.
Concluding his remarks, Trump made explicit the underlying message of his speech: that the church is the cornerstone of American life.
“We see it in the church communities that come together to care for one another, to pray for each other, and to stand strong with each other in times of need,” he said, after referring to the “strength of the American spirit.”
“As long as we have pride in our country, confidence in our future, and faith in our god, then America will prevail,” he said.