Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Tuesday he is proud to work for an administration that encourages staffers “to be very vocal about their faith” at the 15th annual National Catholic Prayer Breakfast.
Mr. Mulvaney championed President Trump’s success in including faith “into our policies,” appointing conservative justices and focusing attention to religious freedom around the world.
“I’ve been sitting with him with leaders from around the world, and he’s pointed to them and said, ‘You’re not doing enough to help the Christians from your country,’” he said in a speech to breakfast attendees at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Northwest Washington.
Mr. Mulvaney, who is also the director of the Office of Management and Budget, shared an anecdote about preparing for Mr. Trump’s most recent State of the Union address and watching as the president made notes in the margins on his copy of the speech.
“He didn’t tell us what he was doing and [then] he said, ‘OK, I’m ready,’” Mr. Mulvaney said, adding that Mr. Trump had added lines to the speech, including criticism of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s remarks that seemingly approved withholding medical assistance to a baby that survives an abortion.
“I’m comfortable as a Roman Catholic, even though I work for a gentleman who is not Roman Catholic, that our principles are live and well in this administration,” Mr. Mulvaney said.
The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast was billed as a nonpartisan event, but it displayed a decidedly conservative tone. Other speakers lambasted the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act and drew applause for references to Mr. Trump’s pro-life stances.
The breakfast’s 1,400 attendees also gave a standing ovation to the parents of Nick Sandmann, the Catholic high schooler from Kentucky who became the target of online fury over a viral video in January. Wearing a “Make America Great Again” baseball cap, Nick stood and smiled at an American Indian activist who was chanting and drumming on the National Mall.
Early reports accused Nick and his schoolmates of mocking and antagonizing the activist, but later reports showed they did not instigate or exacerbate the encounter.
In his speech, William Saunders Jr. asked Julie and Ted Sandmann to stand up, saying their son was “verbally assaulted” by a counterprotester and “brutally demonized by the mass media.’
“It was a circus,” said Mr. Saunders, who is chairman of the Federalist Society’s Religious Liberty Group and director of the Program in Human Rights at Catholic University.
Little mention was made of the church’s clergy sex abuse scandal, other than prayers for healing and for the scandal to end. Speakers also made few references to the fire that badly damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris last week. Social and domestic policy issues energized the gathering.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, condemned birth control as part of the “heresies” of the sexual revolution. He also criticized the marriage equality movement, saying today’s “gender ideology” proponents’ historic roots lie in Martin Luther, King Henry VIII and other heretical figures.
“We must stand up for marriage today in our homes and in the public square despite the real risk for persecution for doing so,” Bishop Olmsted said.