Americans "don’t worship government, we worship God," Trump says at Liberty commencement

President Donald Trump waves before delivering keynote address at Liberty University's commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on May 13, 2017. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Yuri Gripas President Donald Trump waves before delivering keynote address at Liberty University's commencement in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on May 13, 2017. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Yuri Gripas  

Donald Trump thanked conservative Christians for their votes, and promised to protect their values in his first commencement address as president, at evangelical stronghold Liberty University.

“In America we don’t worship government, we worship God,” he said to raucous applause  at the graduation at the nation’s largest Christian university on Saturday, March 13, in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty’s president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., has long supported Trump, a Presbyterian who has married three times, built casinos, and was caught on tape bragging about groping women.

“I want to thank you,” Trump said to the 50,000 in attendance. “You voted. Boy oh boy, you voted, you voted.”

Trump, who received an honorary law degree at Liberty’s commencement, said he was making good on his promises, pointing to the signing of an executive order earlier this month that directed the IRS to limit enforcement of the ban on pastors endorsing politicians from the pulpit.

“You are living witness of the gospel message of faith, hope and love,” Trump said. “I am so proud as your president to have helped you along over the past short period of time.  I said I was going to do it and Jerry, I did it,” Trump said referring to Falwell and the Johnson Amendment order.

“You are living witness of the gospel message of faith, hope and love,” Trump said.

“America is better when people put their faith into action,” Trump continued. “As long as I am your president no one is ever going to stop you from practicing your faith or from preaching what’s in your heart. We will always stand up for the right of all Americans to pray to God and to follow his teachings.”

Trump added that “America is beginning a new chapter,” an assertion endorsed by Falwell as he introduced Trump.

“Since his election I’ve noticed a new hope and a new optimism sweeping this country,” Falwell said. He said he appreciated Trump’s support for the state of Israel, appointment of  “a pro-life justice” to the Supreme Court, and bombing of militants in the Middle East.

“I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefitted the Christian community in such a short timespan than Donald Trump,” Falwell said.

Trump’s speech in friendly territory followed tumultuous days in which the Republican president came in for forceful criticism for his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating charges of Russia’s meddling in the presidential campaign.

On May 21 Vice President Mike Pence will address the graduates of Notre Dame, the high-profile Catholic university which bucked its tradition this year by not inviting the recently-elected president to give its commencement speech.

Philip Fabiano
1 month 1 week ago

"Americans "don’t worship government, we worship God," Trump says. How does he reconcile this with his health care act?

Lisa Weber
1 month 1 week ago

I find it offensive that Trump has the gall to talk about religion when he imitates the Father of Lies on a daily basis. If those who consider themselves Christians can find a reason to support Trump, the state of Christianity in this country is in pretty sorry shape.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

I’ve only been a priest for 13 years. How could I possibly be at the point that I am just recycling ideas?
Jim McDermottJune 27, 2017
People gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 in Washington. (CNS photo/Jim Lo Scalzo, EPA) 
The high court, in a 7-2 ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, sided with the religious school.
Activists rally outside U.S. Supreme Court in Washington June 26 after the court sided with Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., which sued after being denied a state grant for creating a safer playground (CNS photo/Yuri Gripas, Reuters). 
The Supreme Court court ruled on June 26 that the government may not exclude religious groups from grant programs simply because they are religious.
Ellen K. BoegelJune 27, 2017
Pope Francis laughs as he greets a woman during an audience with people from Lyon, France, in Paul VI hall at the Vatican July 6. The audience was with 200 people living in difficult or precarious situations. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The pope's words can be read as an answer to those who hope his pontificate may end soon.
Gerard O'ConnellJune 27, 2017