At the 2019 National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Trump addressed the importance of religion in public life and reaffirmed his pro-life stance. Speaking to the annual gathering of politicians, foreign guests, diplomats and business-people, Trump said faith “transforms lives, heals communities and lifts up the forgotten.”
Trump touched on a wide range of faith-related topics, including the release of evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison. The president praised Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, for teaching at a Christian school that’s faced scrutiny for affirming traditional marriage.
Echoing some words from this week’s State of the Union address, Trump said, “All children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God.” He promised to “build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life.”
In 2017, when he last spoke at the breakfast, Trump pledged to abolish the Johnson Amendment, which limits the political speech of pastors. The law is still in place, and Trump didn’t address it this year.
“I will never let you down,” he promised attendees. Trump was ribbed on social media for saying one of America’s accomplishments is the “abolition of civil rights,” an error he failed to correct.
The National Prayer Breakfast Is a Nonpartisan Event Emphasizing Unity
The prayer breakfast, which began in 1953, brings together people from both sides of the political aisle. This year’s co-chairs, Senators James Lankford, R-Okla., and Chris Coons, D-Del., prayed together for Trump, asking God to give him energy, wise counsel, insight and joy. The two senators lead a prayer group at the U.S. Capitol every week.
Coons, who holds a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School, encouraged Democrats to be more vocal about their beliefs. “Many of us Democrats are uncomfortable talking publicly about our faith,” he said. “As a result, a lot of younger Americans associate Christianity and public professions of faith with some of the most politically conservative and theologically conservative views. But some of the most progressive senators are actively worshiping Christians. They just don’t talk about it. I think that’s one of the things I’m able to contribute here in Washington.”
Keynote Speaker Addresses Ending Slavery
The keynote speaker at this year’s prayer breakfast was Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, an organization that fights modern-day slavery. Even during a time of division, anxiety and discouragement, Haugen said, “There is good that we all agree should be done.”
On Thursday, which was also the seventh annual Shine a Light on Slavery Day, Haugen emphasized that “this ancient sin” can be ended for good “with proper funding each year.” It’s vital, he said, for people “to actually believe that the good will ultimately prevail.”
An estimated 40 million people are currently enslaved worldwide, Haugen said, adding, “If we all do our part, all of us, to raise our voices and to raise the resources, millions of God’s children can note the freedom for which they were made.”
The United States has contributed to The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, a public-private partnership that aims to make slavery economically unprofitable.