Trump argues it is part of protecting religious freedom
By Matt Hadro
Photo: People gather for a protest at the Arrivals Hall of San Francisco's International Airport after people coming in from Muslim-majority countries were held Jan. 28 by border control as a result of the new executive memorandum by U.S. president Donald Trump. (Peter Dasilva, EPA / CNS)
President Donald Trump insisted Feb. 2 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,” Trump stated at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“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.
On Thursday, the president spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast at the Washington Hilton Hotel, a 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.
Michael Wear, former director of faith outreach for Obama 2012 campaign, said that according to a "trusted source," at least half a dozen people who were invited to the prayer breakfast were unable to attend due to the new travel restrictions.
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.”
“In recent days, we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal,” he continued.