Shortly before President Donald Trump delivered his speech at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, the event’s keynote speaker, Harvard University professor and author Arthur Brooks, asked the crowd, “How many of you love somebody with whom you disagree politically?”
Many people in the audience raised their hands. Trump, sitting quietly a few feet away from Brooks, did not.
It was the beginning of an unusual appearance by a noticeably frustrated Trump, who used the multifaith religious gathering not only to champion his administration’s achievements on religious matters, but also to chide political opponents who challenged him during the recent impeachment process.
When the president arrived Thursday morning (Feb. 6), he stood before the applauding crowd and held aloft a newspaper emblazoned with a headline announcing his acquittal by the U.S. Senate from impeachment charges.
Later, when Brooks finished his speech on mending political division by “loving your enemies,” the president, his voice hoarse, approached the podium and opened his remarks by lamenting that he and his family “have been put through a terrible ordeal by some very corrupt and dishonest people.”
He then took thinly veiled shots at Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who invoked his faith on Wednesday when he announced that he would vote to convict Trump on abuse of power, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who delivered a prayer for the poor at the breakfast and said throughout impeachment proceedings that she was praying for Trump.
“I don’t like people who use faith for justification for doing what they know is wrong, nor do I like people who say ‘I pray for you’ when they know that is not so,” said Trump, who identifies as Presbyterian.
The president eventually moved on from impeachment, pivoting to a discussion of what his administration has done to address issues important to various religious groups. His remarks echoed his State of the Union address delivered two days prior, when he also repeatedly invoked religion.
“In America, we don’t punish prayer,” he said, quoting directly from his previous speech. “We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers, we don’t muzzle pastors. In America, we celebrate faith, we cherish religion, we lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God.”
He also recounted a version of American history in which religion was framed as playing a central role, arguing that prayer was a key part of the American Revolution.
“So much of the greatness we have achieved, the mysteries we’ve unlocked and the wonders we’ve built, the challenges we’ve met, and the incredible heights that we’ve reached, has come from the faith of our families and the prayers of our people,” he said.
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Source: Religion News Service