Opelousas, Louisiana - Remarks by Vice President Pence During Visit to Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church:
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. I want to thank Reverend Jack and all the pastors from the churches impacted by the fires a little more than a month ago.
What happened here at Mount Pleasant, at Greater Union, at Saint Mary’s was evil. But these communities of faith have overcome evil with good.
And I wanted to be here today just simply to tell all of you, on behalf our President, on behalf of all of the American people, that we’re with you.
PARTICIPANTS: Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’re praying for you. And we’re standing with you. And we know these churches and this community will rebuild bigger and better than ever before.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Your resilience and your faith and your courage in the wake of this unspeakable evil has inspired the nation.
Now, I had to come here to express that to you. But not just me. I’m honored to be joined by other public officials who’ve made time to be with us today and I know who have been standing with you from the very first day and the very first fire. And I want to thank Governor Edwards for being with us today, for the outstanding effort your law enforcement team at the state level did.
I want to thank Attorney General Landry, who is with us today. And I met the law enforcement officer today who brought the suspect to justice just a few short days after these horrific fires. And we commend the law enforcement community at the state and local level for the outstanding work that they did working in this community to bring that person to justice.
And I also want to thank Senator Cassidy and Congressman Scalise and the better part of the entire delegation in the Congress from Louisiana who are joining us today.
It blesses my heart to be with all of you today and to see the way this community has come together with a commitment to rebuild and to rebuild on a foundation of faith.
You know, sadly, we live in a time when attacks on communities of faith have become all too frequent. The fires here at Mount Pleasant, at Greater Union, at Saint Mary’s are part of a story that continued last week in California at a synagogue; last fall, in Pittsburgh; at a mosque in New Zealand; and at churches on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka.
No one should ever fear for their safety in a house of worship anywhere in this country, anywhere in the world. And these attacks on communities of faith must stop.
Let me say to each and every one of you gathered here, though, that your example in the wake of this evil — and not just of the churches of Mount Pleasant and Saint Mary’s and Greater Union, but also, Reverend Jack, of all of the communities of faith in this area and all across Louisiana has truly been inspiring. To see the way people of faith responded not with anger but with charity.
And to think of churches burning one day after another, and how people might have responded, and to see the way people, here in these churches and this community and across Louisiana, responded is an inspiration to the nation.
After what happened at Saint Mary’s and here at Mount Pleasant and Greater Union, you overcame evil with good. And, Reverend Toussaint, I particularly was moved when you said, after the suspect was apprehended, that we’ve got to forgive him. You lived out your faith and had a testimony for Christ that echoed across the country. And I must tell you also: It was very inspirational to us to know that you still had Easter services right here at Mount Pleasant.
There’s a verse that says, “If the foundation crumbles, how can the righteous stand?” And as I arrived today, the pastors and I spoke about the fact that while these — the structure of these churches burned, what was evident to people all across the America is the foundation was firm — a foundation of faith and heart to charity.
And I know, in my heart of hearts, based on that witness of faith and the generous outpouring of people across this state and across this nation, with great leadership at the state and federal level, and with great leadership in the pulpits of not only these three churches but all the churches across this area, that the best days for these three churches, for faith in Louisiana and faith in America, are yet to come.
So thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Reverend Jack, did you want to say a word?
REVEREND JACKSON: Well, we’re more than thankful that the President and the Vice President of these United States of America thought well enough to come out and share, through way of expression, their love and concern for the wellbeing of these three families who have lost their places of worship.
And just, Vice President Pence, his presence of being here today let’s us know that there’s hope not only for today but also hope for tomorrow, and that we have the support of all of God’s children across the globe.
And so we’re just happy that he thought well enough to come out and share with us, even if just for a short moment. And we are very thankful for that. And we want to thank you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Reverend Jack. We’re with you. We’re with you.
REVEREND TOUSSAINT: I just want to say thank you, Vice President Pence, for showing the love of God that’s spread abroad in all of us. We have to know that there is something better for this country than hatred, envy, and strife. We are built — this country is built on God. We are one nation under God. And God is love.
If we don’t continue to show each other love, why would you wake up in the morning to hate somebody? You should be making yourself a better person to wake up in the morning, to do what’s best for your neighbor, do what’s best for your fellow man, and then you will fulfill out the Scriptures, which is the — the fullness of Scripture is love. That’s the complete of the Commandments is love, the greatest of them all.
And I thank you for coming and taking your time out to come. There’s nothing better or more important than this visit because it shows me that God is in the White House. His presence is there, and we thank God for you. May God forever keep you. May his face shine upon you and give you peace. (Applause.)
REVEREND SYLVESTER: Vice President Pence, I want to thank you for just coming out and just showing your support. It speaks volumes. And I just want to tell everyone that’s here, I want to tell you, I want to tell America, the world: Thank you.
The outpouring, the outreach — mind-blowing. And it just proves that we live in a world where people still care about each other.
And the people that do that — we’ve got to make sure that we don’t lose heart, we don’t get all hate — you know, all that hate in our heart. And remember that we’re here to help one another and be there for one another.
So, once again, I just can’t say it enough — and I know I speak on behalf of the other pastors: Thank you, America. Thank you, the world. Thank you, Vice President Pence, for all that you’ve done to support us and to be there with us. And God is smiling down upon us (inaudible). God bless you. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
REVEREND RICHARD: Vice President Pence, I really appreciate the effort that you have taken to come and be with us during our times of trials. You know, the Bible is saying in this world we will have trials and tribulations. It’s always good to know that that there’s somebody there to help you. And we appreciate you taking out the time, as well as all of the other law enforcement and the governor, and all the help that you guys have given us. I can’t express enough how the love of God has shown up in you guys.
You know, oftentimes, when we come to Christ, we say, “We come to Christ,” but we have to realize that God comes and uses us. He’s in control. And we’re just instruments. And if you’re willing to be used by God, I know we’ve got great things ahead of us.
God bless you. God bless you, Mr. Vice President. (Applause.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you again. These three pastors, their faith in the wake of this unspeakable act of evil, is in keeping with the best traditions of our faith. And, frankly, we have the best traditions of our country.
And I’m deeply inspired, as people are all across this country, by the courage and the resilience of these communities of faith, these families of faith, but also by the generous support of the people of Louisiana and people all across the country.
I know you have a ways to go. I was told that we’re going to start hearing hammers pretty soon — (laughter) — at Saint Mary’s, and Greater Union, and here at Mount Pleasant.
And we have every confidence that with your continued testimony and leadership, with the generous strong support of your governor, your senator, your members of Congress, with an outpouring of support from people all across this state and this nation, I know that the best days for Mount Pleasant, Greater Union, Saint Mary’s, and Louisiana are yet to come.
So, thank you all very much, and God bless you.