Donald Trump has become the first president to address the conference of a recognised anti-LGBT hate group.
Trump addressed the Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit – classed as a “hate group” – as he told the crowds their anti-LGBT views would no longer be silenced.
Among those in the crowd were white supremacists, far-right activists and religious extremists who oppose the equality of LGBT people.
Arriving at the event, Trump said it was great “to be among friends” as he declared: “We are returning moral clarity to our view of the world.”
“I am honoured and thrilled to be the first sitting president to address this gathering of friends, so many friends,” Trump explained.
He added: “I pledged that in a Trump administration, our heritage would be cherished, protected and defended like you have never seen before.”
Trump praised a bombshell directive that gave the go-ahead for religious businesses to discriminate against LGBT people.
The ruling effectively permits anti-LGBT discrimination across the US.
He told the cheering crowds: “To protect religious liberty, including protecting groups like this one, I signed a new executive action in a beautiful ceremony in the White House on our national day of prayer.
“Among many historic steps, the executive order followed through on one of my most important campaign promises, important to so many of you.
“To prevent the horrendous Johnson Amendment interfering with your First Amendment rights.
“We will not allow government workers to censor sermons or target our pastors, our ministers, our rabbis.
“These are the people we want to hear from and they’re not going to be silenced any longer.”
The federal government directive was issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had been tasked by Trump to head a ‘review’ of religious liberty protections, after pressure from anti-LGBT lobbying groups.
Trump told the group he had kept his promise to appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court, in Neil Gorsuch, the new Supreme Court justice who opposes LGBT equality.
“I appointed and confirmed a Supreme Court justice in the mould of the late great Justice Antonin Scalia.”
Justice Scalia dissented on the Supreme Court’s 2002 judgement that struck down laws banning gay sex.
He also said he salutes every person serving in the armed force, despite introducing a ban on transgender soldiers serving.
Trump caused controversy for speaking at the event while a presidential candidate in 2016.
However no elected president had spoken at the summit – making Trump the the first to endorse the hate group.
Speaking alongside Trump at the summit is former Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, who made shocking comments that he wants to “rid the Earth” of “wicked” gays.
And he’s not the only anti-gay extremist to speak alongside the 45th president.
Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has said he doesn’t know whether or not gays and lesbians should be put to death, will also be addressing the event.
Moore, now backed by Trump, was recently removed as a state supreme court justice for instructing state employees to ignore the US Supreme Court ruling in favour of marriage equality.
In addition, Moore also has ties to an extremist pastor who has called for gay people to be put to death.
The Southern Poverty Law Centre lists FRC as an extremist group with an anti-LGBT ideology.
Its own website in 2016 said: “Family Research Council believes that homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed.
“It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects.”
Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, is also set to speak.
Now fully recovered from the attack, one of Scalise’s first actions on his return to action will be to give a speech to the Family Research Council next week.
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Tony Perkins, the FRC’s president, said that Scalise’s return to health was not down to the brave actions of a lesbian police officer, but “an answer to prayer.”
“His fighting spirit in overcoming the odds is a source of inspiration for those who are fighting for the heart and soul of our nation and our culture.
“I look forward to welcoming my friend and former colleague back to the Values Voter stage.”
However, when his own home was destroyed in what he called a flood “of near biblical proportions,” the homophobic pastor insisted it happened because of God’s love.