Trump will defend religious liberty, running mate tells Iowans

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DES MOINES — Mike Pence described Donald Trump as a defender of faith and religion in his remarks to roughly 600 Christian conservatives in Iowa on Saturday night.

Pence, the governor of Indiana and running mate to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, hit the familiar campaign notes during his 45-minute address to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual fall fundraising dinner, criticizing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton on a number of fronts, including national security and the economy.

But Pence also made a direct pitch to his audience, saying Trump as president would nominate conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court, approve legislation that would make late-term abortions illegal and eliminate the threat of removing tax-exempt status for politically active churches, and end taxpayer funding to women’s health care provider Planned Parenthood.

“For the sake of the sanctity of life and all of our God-given liberties, Iowa let’s ensure that the next president making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is president Donald Trump,” Pence said to a standing ovation. “In these challenging times, Donald Trump will stand for the freedoms enshrined in all of us, including the freedom of religion.”

Pence, who opened with his trademark introduction of describing himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” described Trump as a man motivated by his faith and family.

“We both come from the same place: a foundation of faith, family, and a belief in the boundless potential of the American people,” Pence said.

Pence said he thinks Trump’s candidacy has tapped into a movement that he said is “stirring across America.”

“After years of more government, more taxes and condescending attitudes toward traditional values unfurling out of Washington, D.C., toward people of faith all across Iowa and all across this country by the millions, the hinge of history is swinging in the direction of faith and freedom, and I literally see it every day,” Pence said.

Trump was among eight Republican presidential candidates who spoke at the Coalition’s event a year ago, during the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses. He brought to that event a copy of his personal Bible and a photograph from his confirmation class, and told that crowd he would fight for their religious liberty.

Early post-Labor Day polls on the presidential race in Iowa showed a tight race between Trump and Clinton. But a pair of recent polls have showed Trump leading by six and eight percentage points.

The Clinton campaign countered Pence’s appearance in Iowa on Saturday with a roundtable discussion on federal immigration laws. The discussion was hosted by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Chicago, who discussed immigration policy with roughly a dozen Latino Iowans.

Gutierrez told reporters before the roundtable event that he believes faith-based voters supporting Trump and Pence may be forgetting the second of the Ten Commandments.

“What about love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Gutierrez said. “What about the fact that your family is secure, Mr. Pence. At the end of the day, you’re going to go home to your wife. You’re going to go home to your children. Your children know that you’re safe. What about the millions of undocumented families that need that kind of safety. …

“You know, they’re Americans in everything but a slip of paper.”

Gutierrez noted Hillary Clinton in 2004 backed an immigration reform bill sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy. He also reminded his audience — as conservatives often do — that the next president will nominate at least one and possibly multiple justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and that could also impact future attempts at immigration reform.

“We have a partner in Hillary Clinton,” Gutierrez said.

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