Trump gets hero’s welcome at Christian summit

President Trump received a rock star reception at a gathering of religious conservatives in Washington, D.C. on Friday, where he vowed to protect Christian values and be an anti-abortion champion for the right.

Trump received multiple standing ovations as the first-ever sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit, a yearly gathering of social conservatives at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington. The summit was standing room only while the president spoke, the room packed to the gills with cheering conservatives snapping photos of the president.

Trump, who has become a hero on the religious right for early actions on abortion and religious liberty, cast his governing philosophy as one steeped in Biblical principles.

“In America we don’t worship government, we worship God,” Trump said.

“We know that parents, not bureaucrats, know best how to raise their children and create a thriving society,” he added. “We know that faith and prayer — not federal regulation, and by the way, we are cutting regulations at a clip that nobody has ever seen before.”

The president brought the crowd to its feet as he dipped into the culture wars and blamed “politically correct” liberals of warring against American traditions, like the celebration of Christmas. 
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“We’re saying Merry Christmas again,” Trump said.

“How times have changed,” he added. “You know, now they're changing back again. Just remember that. “

The room also exploded with excitement when Trump mentioned his respect for the American flag. The president has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with NFL players who have been kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

“We believe in strong families and safe communities,” Trump said. “We honor the dignity of work. We defend our constitution. We protect religious liberty. We treasure our freedom. We are proud of our history. We support the rule of law and the incredible men and women of law enforcement. We celebrate our heroes and salute every American that wears the uniform. We respect our great American flag.”

Trump was preceded at the conference by conservative allies such as Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who praised the president for delivering on his campaign promises to social conservatives and called on voters to reject lawmakers who won't move Trump's agenda forward.

“In the last ten months we have followed through on one promise after another,” Trump boasted. “If I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.”

On the abortion front, conservatives have been thrilled by Trump’s actions, including his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and his decision to sign a Congressional Review Act resolution that nullified an Obama-era regulation prohibiting states from defunding Planned Parenthood.

Last week, the House passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, which Trump has said he’ll sign if it passes the Senate.

“Everyone here today is brought together by the same shared and timeless values,” Trump said. “We cherish the sacred dignity of every human life.”

Trump has also been cheered on the right for reversing Obama-era policies that conservatives viewed as an affront to religious liberty.

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would roll back an ObamaCare requirement that employers include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans, exempting companies that might object to providing birth control on moral or religious grounds.

 And the Justice Department recently issued a memo detailing the ways the administration would protect those who “act or abstain from action in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.” 

“Religious liberty is enshrined in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights,” Trump said. “We all pledge allegiance to … one nation under God. This is America's heritage, a country that never forgets that we are all, all, every one of us, made by the same God in heaven.”

Trump on Friday spent a great deal of time expressing sympathy for the victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas and those who have been impacted by a string of hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region and in Puerto Rico.
 
The comments followed fierce backlash against Trump on Thursday after he tweeted that the federal government can’t remain in Puerto Rico “forever.” Most of Puerto Rico is still without power following Hurricane Irma and Maria, and many are struggling to find clean water and food as the death toll mounts.

Trump has been accused of not paying as much attention to the territory as he has to the states that were impacted by hurricanes and his tweet was viewed as further evidence that he doesn’t care about the plight of struggling Puerto Ricans.

On Friday, Trump said there is no question that the U.S. will be there for those who are suffering.
 

“These are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we'll be there, we're going to be there,” Trump said. “We have really, it is not even a question of a choice. We don't even want a choice, we're going to be there as Americans and we love those people and what they've gone through and they're all healing, and their states and territories are healing and healing rapidly.”