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At Prayer Breakfast, Trump Says Faith Is Central To American Life

President Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., as Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., watches.
Evan Vucci
President Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., as Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., watches.

President Trump praised God and country Thursday, calling the U.S. "a nation of believers" and saying faith is central to "American life and to liberty."

The president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual gathering of faith and political leaders, in Washington, D.C. Sticking largely to his script, Trump said he came to "praise God, for how truly blessed we are to be American."

Trump said the nation's founders "invoked our creator four times in the Declaration of Independence" and that "our currency declares 'In God We Trust.' "

He spoke of the heroism of ordinary Americans and first responders who dove into floodwaters after hurricanes, firefighters who braved smoke and flames during the California wildfires and those who responded to the "horrific shootings" in Las Vegas.

Calling America "a tireless force for justice and peace," Trump said the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has liberated almost all of the territory recently held "by these killers" in Iraq and Syria. "We will never rest until that job is "completely done," Trump said, adding "and we are really doing it like never before."

He said America stands "with all people suffering oppression and religious persecution" naming Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea.

Evangelical Christians, who made up a large part of the audience Thursday, are a key part of Trump's base of support, many of whom have said they are able to overlook the president's three marriages and sometimes crude sexual boasting as he has promoted policies and judges who support their agenda.

Trump did not bring up his previous support for ending the Johnson Amendment, which forbids churches and other tax exempt institutions from endorsing candidates for office. It was struck for parliamentary reasons from the GOP tax bill that passed at the end of last year. And unlike his appearance at the breakfast last year, where he tweaked former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for having low ratings as his successor as host of The Apprentice, Trump avoided any such ad-libs or outbursts.

He did call on the show's producer, Mark Burnett, who was also in attendance, to stand "even if he is from Hollywood."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.