The following comes from a Feb. 7 story on National Public Radio by Tom Gjelten.
With his opening words at this year’s National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump made clear he saw the largely conservative crowd as a friendly audience, one he was eager to please.
“I will never let you down,” he said. “I can say that. Never.”
In his first appearance at the event in 2017, Trump promised to get rid of the Johnson Amendment, a cause popular among those Christians who resent the law’s restriction of political speech by pastors. The law is still on the books, and Trump did not repeat the promise this year.
He devoted much of his speech instead to other issues important to conservative Christians, from religious liberty to abortion. He praised Vice President Pence’s wife, Karen, for teaching at a conservative Christian school that requires its staff to declare a belief in marriage as “the uniting of one man and one woman,” and he pledged support for a government-funded Catholic adoption agency in Michigan that faces an ACLU lawsuit over its refusal to place children with same-sex couples.
The National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event first held in 1953, is traditionally a nonpartisan event that draws thousands of people from a variety of faith traditions, including diplomats, businesspeople and politicians. Every president since Dwight Eisenhower has addressed the breakfast. The co-chairs this year were Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was among the members of Congress in attendance.
In his speech to the breakfast, Trump promoted his administration’s record in matters of faith, such as his effort to secure the freedom of Andrew Brunson, an evangelical pastor who spent two years in a Turkish prison. Turning to Brunson, who was in the audience, Trump took credit for his release in October 2018.
“He was there for a long time before I got there,” Trump claimed. “I said, ‘You gotta let him out.’ And they let you out.”
Trump got the loudest applause in response to a line suggesting his opposition to abortion, a theme he also highlighted in his State of the Union speech two days earlier.
“As part of our commitment to building a just and loving society, we must build a culture that cherishes the dignity and sanctity of innocent human life,” he said. “All children born and unborn are made in the holy image of God.” The crowd stood and roared.