President Donald Trump has vowed to "fight" for the rights of Christians in America and thanked the evangelical community for never letting him down during an address delivered at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's annual conference.
Speaking to evangelical supporters Thursday at the FFC's "Road to Majority" gathering, Trump said his primary goal as president is to "fight for the American people and to fight for America and America first."
"We will always support our evangelical community and defend your right and the right of all Americans to follow and to live by the teachings of their faith," the president told more than 1,000 activists meeting at a Washington hotel. "And as you know, we're under siege. We will come out bigger and better and stronger than ever. You fought hard for me and now I'm fighting hard for all of you," Trump said.
Trump spoke about his actions to protect religious freedom, including the nomination of federal judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and his efforts to repeal a rarely enforced IRS rule known as the Johnson Amendment that indicates pastors who endorse political candidates from the pulpit risk losing their tax-exempt status.
"In my first 100 days and I don't think anybody has ever done more or certainly not much more," he said. "You didn't let me down and I will never, ever let you down, you know that."
The president won an overwhelming 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in the November election, notes the AP, and a recent Pew Research Center survey marking his first 100 days in office found three-fourths of white evangelicals approved of his performance as president.
"We have taken a very strong position," Trump added of his decision to allow pastors to weigh in on politics. "You picked a winner."
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), told The Gospel Herald evangelicals should be "excited" about the measures Trump has taken to protect religious freedom.
"It's very encouraging," he said. "There's a change of tone, a change of atmosphere, a change of direction. We had been going in a direction of discrimination against religion, against Christians, against Christian speech, religious speech."
"Religious freedom is clearly a high priority for this White House," he said. "That's new. That wasn't a high priority for the last White House."
While acknowledging that "there is more that's needed to be done," Johnson said it's "unrealistic for the Christian community to think we're going to get everything we want in the first 100 days."
"It's work every day, every month, every election cycle," he said. "The encouraging thing is, it's moving in the right direction. This White House wants Christian leaders to have a seat at the table, bring up their issues, and they're willing to speak and to act and to move."
Other speakers at the FFC's "Road to Majority" conference include Mike Pence, Ted Cruz, evangelical author James Dobson, Pat Boone and Michael Medved, and others.