Despite a rocky start, President Trump drew much applause during his speech today at the National Prayer Breakfast. While he touched on several different topics, the highlight of Trump’s speech was his promise to “totally destroy” the Johnson amendment, thus allowing pastors to speak freely about politics from the pulpit.
The Rocky Start
Barry Black, the chaplain of the United States Senate, was the keynote speaker and spoke before Trump took the stage. His words apparently had a positive effect on Trump, so much so that he offered to appoint the chaplain for another year. “I don’t know, chaplain, whether that’s an appointed position? Is that an appointed position? I don’t know if you’re Democrat or Republican, but I’m appointing you for another year. The hell with it.”
Not four minutes into his 20-minute speech, Trump took the opportunity to poke at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who stepped into his role on Trump’s hit TV show The Apprentice, complaining that as soon as Schwarzenegger took over the ratings “went right down the tubes.” He then jokingly commented that he would like to “pray for Arnold for those ratings.”
Trump’s attempt to lighten the mood didn’t seem to go over too well as his comments were met with half-hearted laughter.
The Importance of Prayer and Faith
Getting down to the reason for his speech, Trump then shifted focus onto prayer and faith. He started by saying he wanted to thank the American people: “Your faith in prayers have sustained me and inspired me through some very, very tough times.” He also said the words of encouragement people have spoken to him around the country have offered “a constant source of strength.”
Trump promised to take care of those in the military. He said no one inspires him more than those who serve in the military and their families. Speaking of fallen soldiers, Trump quoted John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Trump reminisced about his mother and the faith she displayed. He said he was blessed to have been raised in a “churched” home and that his parents regularly taught him the biblical principle that to whom “much is given, much is expected.”
In a rather eloquent point of his speech, Trump said, “The quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success.” And that although we may come from different faith backgrounds, we are united by the belief that we are all equal in God’s eyes.
“Freedom is not a gift from government, but freedom is a gift from God,” Trump emphasized.
On His Controversial Calls and Policy Changes
In a shift of gears, Trump moved into current issues the nation faces. He started by iterating that freedom of religion is under threat all over the world. “The world is in trouble, but we’re going to straighten it out. OK? That’s what I do.”
The President then took what appeared to be a detour from the teleprompter to assure the audience they have no reason to worry about the “tough phone calls” he’s been making lately.
Commenting on his highly controversial immigration policy changes, Trump said, “we need security” because “there are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle,” which he believes is “not right.”
Next up Trump offered another promise: “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that.” Currently, the Johnson Amendment prohibits 501(c) nonprofit organizations, which is the category churches fall under in the U.S. tax code, from endorsing or opposing any political candidate. Perhaps the support Trump pulled from the conservative Christian base of the country contributed to the motivation behind this promise.
Landing his speech, Trump emphasized the importance of lawmakers to pray and lean on their faith. “We must never, ever stop asking God for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will.”
The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual event that is held on the first Thursday of February. It started in 1953 with the intention of bringing bipartisan political and religious leaders together to pray and network. According to Trump, the gathering is “a testament to the power of faith and one of the great customs of our nation.”