US President Donald Trump pledged to free people of faith from bureaucratic oppression, fight ISIS, and support Israel at the Values Voter Summit in Washington ‒ the first time a sitting US president has addressed the conservative conference.
“When I came to speak to you last year I made you a promise. Our nation’s religious heritage would be protected like you’ve never seen before,” Trump told an audience attending the conference on Friday.
The ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel was packed with hundreds of Trump supporters who, in a standing ovation, chanted “USA” as the president took the stage.
“We know it is the family and the church not government officials, that creates strong and loving communities. Above all else, we know this, in America we don’t worship government, we worship God,” Trump said to loud applause and whistles from the audience.
“We have also taken action to protect the conscience rights of groups like the Little Sisters of the Poor, you know what they went through,” Trump said as members of the audience cheered. “They were going through hell, and all of a sudden they won.”
The Catholic charity has fought a long battle in courts to win an exemption from the mandate enacted by the Obama administration to provide contraceptives as part of its health care coverage.
“We are stopping attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” Trump told the crowd. “Guess what? We are saying Merry Christmas again!”
He referred to his tax reform plan as a Christmas gift to all of “America’s hard working families,” that increases the child tax credit and eliminates the marriage penalty, expressing hope that Congress will adopt it into law.
The president also addressed foreign policy causes dear to the conservative voters, such as support for “our cherished friend and partner, the state of Israel,” the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group, and sanctions against socialist governments in Latin America.
“ISIS is being dealt one defeat after another. We are confronting rogue regimes from Iran to North Korea and we are challenging the communist dictatorship of Cuba and the socialist oppression of Venezuela,” Trump said, “and we will not lift the sanctions on these repressive regimes until they restore political and religious freedom for their people.”
Trump also called Iran “a terrorist nation like few others,” teasing the Friday afternoon speech in which he is expected to decertify Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. The decision will enable Congress to impose additional US sanctions on Iran, but will not take the US out of the internationally negotiated pact.
“We are returning moral clarity to our view of the world and the many grave challenges we face,” Trump told the conference.
The Values Voter Summit is organized by the Family Research Council, a lobbying nonprofit led by evangelical Christian author James Dobson. Trump addressed the group as the Republican presidential candidate in September 2016. This was the first time a sitting US president addressed the gathering.