President Donald Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to address the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit on Friday, delivering a pointed message about faith, freedom and conscience. But it was his comments about history and religion that were, perhaps, the most intriguing.
Trump started the speech by calling America “a nation of believers” who are “sustained by the power of prayer,” and offered up a lesson about the nation’s first president that would likely frustrate some activist groups.
“George Washington said that ‘religion and morality are indispensable’ to America’s happiness, really, prosperity and totally to its success. It is our faith and our values that inspires us to give with charity, to act with courage, and to sacrifice for what we know is right,” Trump said. “The American Founders invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence — four times. How times have changed. But you know what, now they’re changing back again. Just remember that.”
Trump — who was correct in his framing of Washington — was referencing the first commander-in-chief’s 1796 farewell address, which touted the importance of religion. It read, in part:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Trump went on to say in his speech that religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment and that America is “one nation under God.” Trump also remembered the victims of the Las Vegas shooting and recounting some of the heroes who saved lives.
“In the wake of such horror, we also witnessed the true character of our nation. A mother laid on top of her daughter to shield her from gunfire. A husband died to protect his beloved wife,” the president said. “Strangers rescued strangers, police officers — and you saw that, all of those incredible police officers, how brave they were, how great they were running into fire. And first responders, they rushed right into danger.”
Trump continued, “Americans defied evil and hatred with courage and love.”
Watch Trump at the 27:30-mark below:
He also spoke of those impacted by Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma, and by the ongoing wildfires that have been raging in California, and commended the American spirit in the wake of so many difficult and horrific events.
“We know that it’s the family and the church, not government officials, that know best how to create strong and loving communities,” Trump added. “And above all else, we know this: In America, we don’t worship government — we worship God.”