Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday elevated President Trump as a defender of religious freedom and told Liberty University graduates to muscle through criticism from the “secular left” as they live out their Christian faith, saying they’ll “be blessed” for it.
Speaking to a friendly commencement crowd in Lynchburg, Virginia, Mr. Pence criticized the Obama administration for forcing nuns who care for the elderly to fight birth-control rules in court. And he slammed the “bevy of Hollywood liberals” who’ve promised to boycott Georgia as the state passes strict pro-life legislation.
He got personal, too, pointing to those who criticized his wife, Karen, for returning to teach at a Christian elementary school that’s been criticized for its stance on homosexuality.
“Some of the loudest voices for tolerance today have little tolerance for traditional Christian beliefs. So as you go about your daily life, just be ready,” he said.
The Trump White House has a close connection to Liberty University.
The school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr., is an evangelical leader who strongly supported Mr. Trump on the campaign trail.
Mr. Trump gave his first commencement speech as president to Liberty students in 2017.
Critics say it’s rich for Mr. Trump, who’s been married three times and accused of paying hush money to a porn star and a Playboy model to cover up affairs — allegations the president denies —to cast himself as a defender of Christian values.
Yet his administration has thrilled conservative evangelicals with his policies.
He’s rolled back Obama-era rules that compelled faith-based nonprofits to insure birth control, drafted policies that support pro-life initiatives — including or conscience protections for health workers — and appointed conservative judges.
Mr. Pence touted those judges at Liberty, and reminded the crowd that “America stands with Israel.”
He also said students are graduating at a great time, citing the robust jobs market under Mr. Trump’s tenure.
“The American economy is soaring,” he said.
Most of his remarks focused on shifting attitudes in the U.S.
“Throughout most of American history, it’s been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian. It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible,” he said.
He said it’s far harder now, and that students will asked to “bow down to the idols of the popular culture.”
“We will always stand up for the right of Americans to live, to learn, and to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience,” Mr. Pence said. “As President Trump said at this very podium two years ago, on our watch, ‘No one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what is in your heart.’ That’s a promise.”
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