U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during the National Prayer Breakfast Feb. 2 in Washington. CNS photo/Carlos Barria, Reuters

Trump defends refugee ban as part of protecting religious freedom

By  Matt Hadro, CNA/EWTN News
  • February 2, 2017

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump insisted that protecting religious freedom is a U.S. priority, while defending his recent halt of refugee admissions as a necessary step to protect that freedom.

“Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways, and I’ve never seen it so much and so openly since I took the position of President,” President Trump stated at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

“There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing other people based upon their faith or their lifestyle. Not right,” he said. “We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation.”

Last week, Trump ordered a halt to refugee admissions for 120 days – indefinitely for Syrian refugees – and a temporary ban on immigration from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa. The order was met with criticism from the U.S. bishops and humanitarian organizations.

The annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel is an annual tradition that dates back to 1953. Each year, on the first Thursday of February, religious and civic leaders gather in prayer for the country. Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance as well as King Abdullah II of Jordan.

President Trump emphasized the global threat of religious violence, citing “acts of wanton slaughter against religious minorities,” and noting that “terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom.”

“We have seen peace-loving Muslims, brutalized, victimized, murdered, and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against the Jewish people,” he said. “We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians where they cut off heads.”

He pledged to stop such violence and “to defend and protect religious liberty in our land,” insisting that Americans must live in “a tolerant society” where they “can feel safe and secure.”

“Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world,” he said, but some people “exploit that generosity.” He promised to ensure that future immigrants and refugees “fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.”

“In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal,” he said, referencing to his travel and refugee ban from last week.

Trump also pledged to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits non-profit organizations and their representatives from officially endorsing political candidates or participating in their campaigns, lest they lose their tax-exempt status.

“Jefferson asked can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed the conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?” Trump asked, noting that “among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs.”

“That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.”

(Story from the Catholic News Agency)

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