About 100 evangelical leaders were invited to dinner at the White House Monday night for what was a prayer-filled event that’s been compared to a church camp meeting and a campaign rally.
What was dubbed a “state dinner” for evangelical leaders, the event was held specifically in the “honor of evangelical leadership.” The dinner was attended by dozens of evangelical pastors, evangelists and activists who’ve been involved in informally advising the administration including well-known figures like Franklin Graham, James Dobson, and Greg Laurie.
The dinner was also attended by Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Homeland Security Ben Carson, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. The event was officially hosted by first lady Melania Trump.
“We are here today to celebrate America’s heritage of faith, family and freedom,” Trump told the crowd. “As you know in recent years, the government tried to undermine religious freedom but the attacks on communities of faith are over. We’ve ended it.”
Trump continued by boasting about the promises his administration has kept to a conservative evangelical base that played a large role in helping him win the 2016 presidential election.
The president went on about how his administration has taken several steps to protect religious liberty for conservatives who object to things like abortion or gay marriage, his administration’s pro-life victories and how the administration has spoken out about worldwide religious persecution.
Trump even took a moment to recognize Dobson and his wife, Shirley on their 58th wedding anniversary. Trump concluded by telling the crowd that they are “very special people.”
“The support you have given me has been incredible but I really don’t feel guilty because I have given you a lot back — just about everything I promised,” Trump said. “As one of our great pastors just said, ‘Actually, you have given us much more than you have promised.’ And I think that is true.”
Before the dinner, Trump met privately with a small handful of evangelical leaders and their wives including Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and the American Association of Christian Counselors’ Tim Clinton. Florida televangelist Paula White and her son also reportedly joined the small gathering.
Jack Graham, the senior pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, who has served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told The Christian Post that Trump opened up the mic during dinner to allow evangelical leaders in the room to speak their minds.