• George Baumgarten

Trump, Others Speak at U.N. Religious Freedom Session

On the eve of the United Nations’ annual “General Debate”, U.S. President Donald Trump came before a special U.N. session—the very first of its kind—on Religious Freedom. The President spoke of its importance—both in the American tradition, and in the world of the 21st Century.


The meeting’s first speaker was new U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, recently arrived to succeed former Ambassador Nikki Haley. Craft introduced Vice-President Mike Pence, who in turn introduced President Trump. Pence spoke of the importance of recognizing all those who have been persecuted, and noted that Trump was the first president to convene such a meeting on this vital freedom. He mentioned the situations in Iran, Iraq, China, Nicaragua and Venezuela, and noted that the President was taking “decisive action”.


Speaking to the audience at the special session, President Trump thanked Vice-President Pence and several members of the U.S. delegation, as well as his daughter Ivanka.

Addressing himself Directly to President Trump, Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres saluted him for putting a “focus” on Religious Freedom, which he describes as “a pressing global issue and one that is also very close to my heart”. He told also how he had—as Prime Minister of Portugal—ensured equal status for all faiths.

The Secretary-General asserted that religious discrimination is “utterly intolerable” in the 21st Century. He said that all citizens should “feel fully part of the society as a whole”. He noted, however, that Jews, in particular—as well as Muslims, Christians and others--had faced discrimination,


violence and even death, simply because of their religious beliefs. And he noted that entire communities had been targeted, because of their faith. He added that “There is richness and strength in diversity; it is never a threat”. And all human rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of 1948.


Addressing himself to the wider world audience, Gutteres said that “Hatred is a threat to everyone – and so this must be a job for everyone”. Therefore, anti-Semitism, as well as hatred of Muslims, Christians and others, must be stamped out.


Speaking after the Secretary-General, President Trump thanked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Kelly Craft and several other officials for their job performance. He also praised the removal of the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment, a bill authored in the mid-1950’s by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas. It prohibited non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.


He said that the amendment had now been “obliterated”, so that citizens could now listen to religious leaders, “without recrimination against them”.


The President noted that our rights come not from the government, but from God. And he added that the religious freedom enjoyed by Americans is actually quite rare in the

world. He called “upon the nations of the world to end religious persecution”, as well as crimes against people of faith. To that end, he mentioned the appointment of Elan Carr as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He also mentioned the presence of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was recently freed by Turkey, and mentioned his own friendship with President Erdogan.


President Trump also thanked Franklin Graham and praised him for his work. And he mentioned several survivors of religious persecution, who had been received at the White House. And he told of people who had been killed at worship, in France, Pennsylvania, California, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. “These evil attacks”, he said, “are a wound on all humanity”.


President Trump the proceeded to praise business leaders, who have joined the fight to defend religious freedom. He described the continuation of that defense as an “urgent moral duty”. The President made very clear by these remarks that the defense of religious freedom and the right to worship are among his administration’s highest priorities.

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