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Remarks by Vice President Pence to Faith Leaders with Senator Lindsey Graham

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Location: Taylor, SC

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Senator Graham. Thank you for that overly generous introduction. Lindsey and I have known each other a long time. And he knows me well enough to know that the introduction I prefer is a little bit shorter: I'm a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order. (Applause.) And it's an honor to be with all of you today.

To Dr. Roberts, Pastor Stafford, Chad Connelly, and to all of you, it is deeply humbling for us to join so many religious leaders from across South Carolina, here at the "Mother Church of Greenville," Brushy Creek Baptist Church. Thank you for that wonderful, warm welcome. (Applause.)

And let me mention another friend of mine. I spoke to him this morning before we got on the plane and headed this way. And told him I was going to be in South Carolina today, and he sounded just a little bit jealous. (Laughter.) So allow me to bring greetings from a great champion of religious liberty and people of faith in America and across the wider world. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

It's also a great honor today to be joined by two strong supporters of this administration and great friends of ours. And I want to thank them for hosting us here in South Carolina, and, frankly, for doing an amazing job leading this state. Governor Henry McMaster and First Lady Peggy McMaster, thank you so much for being with us today. (Applause.)

And I always think it's proper to introduce the highest- ranking official last. So join me in welcoming my wife of 33 years. (Laughter.) She's a Marine Corps mom. She's an advocate for military families. She's even an art teacher at a Christian school. Would you join me welcoming the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence. (Applause.) Isn't she great?

You know, the President said many times that the United States is, in his words, a "nation of faith." And the leaders in this sanctuary live that out every day.

You minister to thousands of people across South Carolina. You rightly handle the word of truth. You preach the word "in season and out of season." And you address the spiritual and practical needs of your congregations. And the churches you represent I know make a profound impact on the life of this community, this state, and this nation.

In fact, I learned on my way in that our hosts today here at the Brushy Creek Baptist Church have been spreading the word since the days of our nation's first President, George Washington. And I'm told that just last week, this church celebrated its 225th anniversary. Would you join me in giving a big round of applause for this bedrock of the Christian faith here in South Carolina? (Applause.) It's amazing.

Brushy Creek Baptist Church was founded, I'm told, with just five members. Because of your tireless dedication to the Gospel over the generations, now more than 3,000 people live out your mission to "rescue, [to] grow, and [to] serve" here in South Carolina. And today, churches in the farthest corners of the globe are thriving thanks to your faith and generosity. And you have our thanks and admiration.

I have no doubt that each of you representing so many ministries from across this region have the same kind of impact in your communities, the same impact on our nation and the world at large. And I believe with all my heart that your faith is moving mountains and your witness is changing lives every day.

And I know what I'm talking about. You know, I was raised in a churched home. It was grace before dinner and church on Sunday morning. But 40 years ago last spring, everything changed for me. I heard the message that all of you speak so faithfully from pulpits and in coffee shops and in conversations every day. I heard that "God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes…would not perish." And that day I walked down at a little Christian concert in Asbury, Kentucky, and I put my faith in Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. And he has made all the difference. (Applause.) He has. He has.

So thank you for the work that you're doing in the lives of people across this community every day and he way you're changing hearts. Truly, you're renewing South Carolina every day. In fact, as I stand before you today, as Senator Graham just reflected, I believe we're in the midst of a great renewal and a fresh beginning all across this country.

You know, it's the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who gets up every day to renew the greatness of America. That is President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

I mean, think about it. The Senator just spoke about this, but the President promised to revive the American economy, and with the strong support of leaders like both of your senators, we've cut red tape, unleashed American energy, forged new trade deals that put American jobs and American workers first. And this President kept his word to the American people when he signed the largest tax cut and tax reform in American history. (Applause.)

And the American economy is roaring. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. You've seen it here all across South Carolina, and it's happening all across America.

In just two years, businesses large and small across this country have created 5.3 million new jobs, including more than 490,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs. The stock market is soaring. Nearly 5 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps. And the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. And it's the lowest ever recorded for African Americans or Hispanic Americans. The American Dream is working for every American once again. (Applause.) It's true.

And probably most meaningful among all the statistics for the President and me is that while wages are rising at the fastest pace that they have in a decade, they are rising most rapidly for blue-collar Americans.

I mean, the truth of the matter is that the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more. This economy is working for everybody. (Applause.)

And to ensure our continued growth, we all know that we have to secure the blessings of liberty with a strong national defense. And I can promise you this President and this senator have no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people.

And from the first days of this administration, we've worked to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still. And last year, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.

We're rebuilding our military. We're restoring the arsenal of democracy. (Applause.) And we're finally giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources and the support that they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe. We're keeping that solemn pledge. (Applause.)

With that renewed military strength, the United States is once again standing as leader of the free world. We're standing with our allies and we're standing up to our enemies.

American strength has brought the rogue regime in North Korea to the negotiating table. We've stood strong for the restoration of freedom and democracy in Venezuela. And with the courage of our extraordinary armed forces, we've taken the fight to radical Islamic terrorists on our terms, on their soil.

And thanks to our fighting men and women and our allies, one week ago today, the last inch of ground controlled by the Islamic State was liberated. The ISIS caliphate is no more. (Applause.)

So we've stood up to our enemies but we've stood with our allies. And that includes our most cherish ally. You know, for decades, one administration after another promised -- promised to our most cherish ally that we would recognize their capital in the same way that we've recognized every capital of every sovereign nation on Earth. But President Trump made history when he announced, a little more than a year ago, that we were moving the United States embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. (Applause.) He made history.

And just a week ago, he did it again, with the strong support of Senator Lindsey Graham on the floor of the United States Senate. After generations of leaders who recognized that the Golan Heights are critical to the security of the State of Israel, earlier this week, for the first time in 52 years, with Prime Minister Netanyahu at our side, President Trump formally recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Applause.)

You know, the President said, "Israel is an inspiration, a trusted ally, and a cherished friend. The United States will always stand by its side." And I have to tell you, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, if the world knows nothing else, the world knows this: America stands with Israel. (Applause.)

So we're restoring American strength at home and abroad, but in this White House, we know that America's strength ultimately comes from the foundation of our most cherished values. If the foundations crumble, how can a nation stand? And from early in this administration, President Trump has stood with people of faith and stood for our most cherished freedoms.

To protect these freedoms, the President has been appointing strong conservatives to our federal courts at every level. In fact, in the first two years of this administration, President Trump, with the strong support of Republican majorities in the Senate, saw more conservatives confirmed to our federal courts of appeals than any President in American history. (Applause.)

And even if he wasn't here with us today, I would take a moment to give special thanks to a tremendous partner of this administration who's stood with our administration, standing up for President Trump's conservative judicial nominees. And now he is the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Would you all join me in thanking Senator Lindsey Graham for his strong stand for the Constitution and for all of President Trump's appointees to the courts? (Applause.) Thank you. Thanks.

Extraordinary to think about the difference on our courts. More than 80 federal judges, and they're conservatives all. I'll tell you, they're men and women that are going to stand by the God-given liberties enshrined in our Constitution and our Bill of Rights, like the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

And beyond all those 80 judges, that doesn't even include Justice Neil Gorsuch or Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (Applause.) You know, I know America will never forget the force of the words of Senator Graham during the Kavanaugh hearing. And I know here, in South Carolina, you'll never forget it as well.

It was an extraordinary hearing to watch as a good man was treated so badly by Democrats on the committee. And your senator called that spectacle exactly what it was: a "despicable thing," and in his words, the "most unethical sham since [he's] been in politics." Lindsey Graham stood strong, and now Justice Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court of the United States of America. (Applause.) So thank you, Lindsey.

Our courts are stronger and our Constitution is more secure with President Donald Trump in the White House and with strong conservative leaders in the United States Senate, like your senator.

And with his strong leadership, we're going to continue to appoint even more judges. And I promise you they'll all going to be men and women who interpret the Constitution as written and uphold all the God-given liberties enshrined there.

You know, the truth of the matter is -- the truth of the matter is I've also long believed that a society can be judged by how it deals the most vulnerable: the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn. And I couldn't be more proud to serve as Vice President to a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life. (Applause.) And he does.

In one of his very first acts after inauguration, the President reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy, preventing taxpayer dollars from funding abortion or abortion providers around the world. And just this week, our administration took steps to expand it even more around the world.

And here at home, it was my great honor, with the strong support of both of your senators, to cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate that sent a bill to the President's desk that would allow South Carolina and all 50 states to defund Planned Parenthood. (Applause.)

And for all the progress we're making, it's remarkable to think, at the very moment that more Americans -- especially young Americans -- are embracing the right to life, leading members of the Democratic Party are embracing a radical agenda of abortion on demand. And the people of South Carolina deserve to know it.

In state legislatures across the country, Democrats have endorsed late-term abortion. We all saw how the Democrat governor of Virginia openly defended infanticide. And last month, Democrats in the Senate, including every Democrat senator running for president, voted against a bill that would prevent newborn babies who survived failed abortions from being killed.

With Democrats standing for late-term abortion, infanticide, and a culture of death, I'll promise you: This President, your senators, our party, will always stand for the sanctity of human life. We will always stand with the unborn. (Applause.)

And to all the champions of faith here today, let me assure you: You have an ally in President Donald Trump. We'll always stand with you and with all who share your values. And we will always defend your fundamental right to religious liberty and to live out your faith.

You know, after this great nation secured our independence, the American Founders enshrined what I believe was our first freedom in the First Amendment with the words that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Our Founders knew this precious liberty is not granted by government. It is "endowed by our Creator" to every man and woman and child in America and the world. (Applause.)

But the truth is, the freedom of religion is increasingly under attack here at home. Lately, it's actually become fashionable for media elites and Hollywood liberals to mock religious belief. My own family was the target of these attacks after Karen went back to teach art to children at a Christian school.

So let me say from my heart, these attacks on believing Christians and Christian education are wrong and they must stop. (Applause.) They're antithetical to our great American tradition and they should be condemned by every American of every faith.

And I'm proud to say that since the first day of this administration, President Trump has taken bold action to protect the religious liberty and conscience rights of every American of every faith tradition. In our first year in office, the President declared in his words that, quote, the "federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs." And we directed the Department of Justice to develop new protections for Americans of faith.

We made sure the free exercise of religion doesn't stop at the front door of our churches or houses of worship when suspended the Johnson Amendment. Now the freedom of speech extends to every pulpit and every sanctuary in America. (Applause.)

And just last week, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that America's First Amendment protections extend to every college and university campus in America. We'll always stand with courageous young men and women across the country who deserve to live out their faith without repercussion on the campuses of this country.

And as we defend our religious liberty here at home, I can assure you, with the strong support of Senator Graham, our administration has been standing strong for religious liberty around the world.

Today, tragically, 83 percent of the world's population live in nations where religious freedom is either threatened or banned outright.

The list of religious freedom violators is long and merits our attention and prayer. Crimes and oppressions span the width and breadth of our globe. Here in our own hemisphere, the government of Daniel Ortega is virtually waging war on the Nicaraguan Catholic Church. Government-backed mobs armed with machetes, and even heavy weapons, recently attacked parishes and churches. Bishops and priests have been physically assaulted by police. And hundreds of courageous Nicaraguans have died in the cause of freedom in the last year alone.

Last summer, I had the privilege at a conference at the State Department to meet Father Raul Zamora, the parish priest of the Divine Mercy Church. An extraordinary man of faith. Just a week before we met, his church had been attacked by the Ortega government, and some 200 students had sought shelter there.

And I'll never forget the story he told me of that day. His courage was evidence. He literally put himself in harm's way to protect those students for more than 15 hours. He prayed with them through the night as bullets rang against the walls and through the windows. He risked his own life to help negotiate a ceasefire and eventually the students' release.

But Father Zamora told me a story that day, that as he and the students were walking out of the church, a young man who described himself as an atheist walked up to him and took him by the hand. And he said these words -- he said, "Father, I don't believe in God. But if I ever believe in God, I'm going to believe in your God." That's a testimony. That's a witness of faith and courage that will change the world.

As I told Father Zamora, we'll remain committed to supporting the people of Nicaragua in their struggle for freedom, and we always will.

Farther from home, but closer to our hearts, the world watched in horror earlier this month as an evil white supremacist murdered 15 [50] innocent Muslims at prayer in New Zealand. It was a travesty. An atrocity. It grieved the hearts of people around the world.

No one should ever fear for their safety in a place of worship, be that a mosque, a church, or a synagogue, anywhere in the world. (Applause.)

And the truth is, we witness every day that anti-Semitism is once again on the rise, on the world and even here at home. Anti-Semitism is not just wrong, it's evil. And anti-Semitism must be confronted and condemned wherever it arises, whenever and whoever breathes it out. (Applause.)

But nowhere have people of faith faced greater threats than in the ancient lands where the world's three great religions were born, across the Middle East -- an area that your senator knows very well and has traveled to on innumerable occasions.

Since 2014, it is remarkable to think -- one week after the ISIS caliphate and its territory were recaptured, to reflect on the fact that, over the last five years, ISIS has murdered thousands of Christians, forced hundreds of thousands of them to flee from their native communities and their homes and their nations. And it's not just been Christians who felt the brutality of ISIS; believers of many other faiths suffered grievously at ISIS's hands, including Muslims, Druze, Yazidis.

And as I said earlier, this President promised to destroy the ISIS caliphate, and the ISIS caliphate is now destroyed. But while we've liberated millions of captive Christians and religious minorities across the Middle East, I'm proud to report to each one of you that we're also helping these communities rebuild their lives and replant their roots in their ancient and ancestral homes as never before.

At President Trump's direction, for the first time ever, the United States of America is providing direct financial support to Christians and religious minorities rebuilding their communities across the Middle East. (Applause.) It's happening. We've already committed more than $340 million to their aid under the President's leadership.

And the truth is, we're just getting started to restore the vibrant diversity of faith across the ancient world.

And also, finally, religious persecution is growing in the world's most populous country as well. The State Department's annual International Religious Freedom report labeled China as a religious freedom violator every year since 1999.

As many of you know, Chinese authorities have banned the sale of Christian Bibles; they've destroyed thousands of crosses and other Church symbols; and they have jailed Christian pastors. And let me make you a promise: As we work toward a more free and fair trading relationship with China, our administration will continue to stand strong with people of faith in China. And we will work to convince China to lift the heavy hand of government from the church. (Applause.)

Persecuted Christians around the world deserve your prayers. And I know they have them. But I want to promise you: Under this administration, they will always have the support of the American people as well.

It's really wonderful for us to be with you today, and we're grateful that all of you would take time on a beautiful Saturday to come out. Your presence here is an encouragement to us and deeply humbling.

You know, the President and I share one conviction, and that is: The sweetest words we ever hear are when people reach across a rope line or stop us on a street corner and say, "I'm praying for you." And you can always tell when people mean it. Those of you in ministry know what I'm talking about. When that person looks at you and they say it with a conviction that you know comes straight from their heart, you know that they're taking your name before the throne of grace, and it's deeply humbling.

I invariably respond to people that we feel it every day. And we do, don't we?

You know, the Bible says, "I urge…that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…and all those in authority." So let me say thank you. Thank you for your prayers. We feel them every day. (Applause.)

But as you pray for those of us in positions of authority that have been entrusted by the American people in our positions, I also encourage you, in these too divided of times across this country, to just pray for America. Pray for all the people of America. Because I truly do believe that those ancient words that have seen our nation through much more challenging times than we could imagine in our time are every bit as true today: That if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He'll do like He's always done through the long and storied history of this country. He'll hear from Heaven and He'll heal this land -- (applause) -- this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. So keep on praying.

At home and abroad, I'll promise you, President Trump and I are going to continue to fight for what we know is right. But as I close, let me say we also recognize that the most important work in America doesn't happen in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or in any public office for that matter.

I can assure you the President and I know the most meaningful work -- the transformative work in this country -- happens in places just like this; it happens in houses of worship and in the hearts of the American people.

We know the truth is no podium the President and I ever stand behind will be of greater consequence than your pulpits. No policy we ever enact will be more meaningful than the ministries that you lead. No action will -- we take will ever be more powerful than the love and compassion and the prayers for the American people.

So thank you for the honor of addressing you. Keep changing hearts. Keep reaching people all across this community, and this state, this nation, and this world. Keep changing lives. And we'll keep making American great again.

Thanks everybody. God bless you. And God bless America. (Applause.)


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