White House Oval Office Washington D.C. January 16 2:42 P.M. EST
Well, thank you very much. A couple of things happened today that are very exciting. The USMCA passed the Senate. It's one of the biggest trade bills ever made.
And then, yesterday, as you know, China passed, and that's something that is extraordinary. And it's going to have tremendous far-reaching effects, including our relationship, long term, with China, our farmers and manufacturers and bankers, and everybody. It's jobs. It's jobs like we've never seen before, and that's going to be something very special. And USMCA today, which just passed by a very comfortable vote - a very high vote - we are very proud to have that.
So we've done two of the biggest trade deals. They are the two biggest trade deals in the world ever done. And we're honored to have done them in a short period of time.
We are gathered in the Oval Office for the National Religious Freedom Day - something very important and very special, and special to me and the people that are gathered around me.
This afternoon, we're proudly announcing historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools. So you have the right to pray. And that's a very important and powerful right. There's nothing more important than that, I would say.
We're joined by the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos; Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen; and students and advocates from across America. And advocates they were. They've been calling and writing by the thousands. And you're representing that large group of people.
In a sacred principle of our Republic that government must never stand between the people and God. Yet, in public schools around the country, authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith, or following their religious beliefs. It is totally unacceptable. You see it on the football field. You see it so many times where they're stopped from praying. And we are doing something to stop that.
Tragically, there is a growing totalitarian impulse on the far-left that seeks to punish, restrict, and even prohibit religious expression. Something that, if you go back 10 years or 15 years or 20 years, it was un-thought of that a thing like that could even happen - that anybody would even think of something like that happening.
That is why, today, my administration is issuing strong new guidance to protect religious liberty in our public schools. The right of students and teachers to freely exercise their faith will always be protected, including the right to pray.
So we call this the "Right to Pray." Is that a good idea? Good? Right? You like that, right? (Laughter.)
Nine federal agencies are also proposing new rules to roll back discriminatory regulations. So we have rules to roll back discriminatory regulations on religious service organizations. And earlier this afternoon, my White House released a new memo to make sure federal funding is never used to violate the First Amendment - which is a very big deal.
With us today is Hannah Allen, a high school freshman from Texas. Hannah, would you tell us what happened at your school with respect to you and prayer? Hannah?
Thank you, Mr. President.
Thank you, darling. Right here.
So, me and a group of students from our school wanted to pray for our former classmate's brother who had got hurt in an accident.
After the prayer, our principal told us, "Don't do that again." So the next day, parents had called and complained. He told us that we could pray, but he said we had to hide in the gym or behind a curtain, or somewhere away from everyone else.
And I know that if this can happen in a small town in Texas, it can happen anywhere across America, and that's not right. No one should feel ashamed of their faith, especially in school or anywhere.
So what ultimately happened? How was that resolved?
So we got with First Liberty. They've been amazing. They supported us the whole way. And they sent the school a letter, and the school complied with the letter, and they changed the - yeah.
And now you're able to do that?
Good. Well, now it's going to be much easier yet. Okay? All right? Thank you, darling. That was beautiful. Thank you very much.
We're also joined by Marilyn Rhames, a former teacher and the founder of Teachers Who Pray. Marilyn, if you could, let us know - where is -
I'm right here.
Good. Thank you very much. Maybe you give us a little bit about what happened?
Yes. So, thank you. I'm Marilyn Rhames. I'm the founder and president of Teachers Who Pray. And I founded Teachers Who Pray because I, as a teacher, believe in the beauty of every child and the unlimited potential that resides within. However, the students that I was getting weren't set up for success because they were so significantly behind grade level. And I taught in Chicago public schools for 14 years. And during that time, we were losing students every year to gun violence. And one year, it was like 30, 32 students getting killed.
And I was overwhelmed with the heaviness of the work, so I thought about quitting, and I decided not to. I was going to fight. And I was going to pray and uplift my spirit so that I can do the job that I knew God had called me to do.
So I began praying with other teachers in the building who were like-minded, and we really supported each other, built community, built more hope, built more joy in the work despite it being so difficult. And we grew. Like, right now, there's over 150 chapters of Teachers Who Pray because teachers need that spiritual support and guidance.
And today, I believe it's super important because there is a myth out there that what Teachers Who Pray does and other organizations do for teachers, spiritual wealth is not legal. And it absolutely is.
And I'm here to tell teachers that we need to pray for your faith. We need to pray. We need to buckle and just do what we have to do for our kids because they need us and they're depending on us. And if we're not strong, we can't make them strong. So that's why I'm here.
That was really beautifully said. Thank you very much. That was beautiful. Thanks, Marilyn.
So, while I'm President, which will be hopefully for five years - and, I don't know, maybe we'll work on, with the media, we'll work on a major extension of that. Right? (Laughter.) But we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.
And I want to thank you all, and God bless you all for being here. It's a great time in our country. We're doing things that nobody thought was possible.
I'd like to ask, if I might, Secretary DeVos and Deputy Attorney General Rosen to say a few words about our actions, if you don't mind. Please.
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