Arlington, Virginia - Remarks by Vice President Pence to Alliance Defending Freedom:

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you for that very warm welcome.  It is an honor to be here today with the men and women of Alliance Defending Freedom.  You are champions for our first freedom, and it is my great honor to be with all of you today.  (Applause.)

But before we get started, allow me to say a few words about the horrific mass shootings that occurred over this weekend in El Paso and Dayton.

Like all Americans, Karen and I were outraged and sickened by these barbaric acts.  As I stand before you today, 31 people have died, and 53 were injured.  And it breaks our hearts to see so many innocent lives cut short by unspeakable violence.

What happened this weekend were acts of pure evil, and we express our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives.  And we join every American praying for the injured and their families in their hour of need.  The Bible says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”  And that will be our prayer for the people of Dayton and El Paso.

We also commend the men and women of law enforcement in both states, whose quick action and courageous service undoubtedly saved lives.  They earned the admiration and gratitude of the American people.  (Applause.)

And as President Trump said in his address to the nation yesterday, “Hate has no place in America” and the sinister ideologies of “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy…must be defeated.”  (Applause.)

In the wake of previous violence, our administration worked on a bipartisan basis with the Congress to strengthen background checks and improve school safety.  And in the wake of this weekend’s mass shootings, the President has brought the full resources of the federal government to assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for these heinous acts.  Justice will be swift and certain.  (Applause.)

The President has also directed the FBI to use all legal means available to disrupt hate crimes and to prevent domestic terrorism before it occurs.  We directed the Department of Justice to work with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as social media companies, to develop new tools to identify those seeking to do harm before they strike.

And the President called for all of us to work together to end the glorification of violence in our society and to reform our mental health laws.  We’ll work to identify and treat and, where necessary, involuntarily confine all those deemed a risk to themselves or the public safety.  (Applause.)

And as we speak, our administration is working with members of Congress to ensure that all those who pose a risk to public safety are denied access to firearms.  (Applause.)

And finally, because justice delayed is justice denied, we’re developing legislation to ensure that those who commit mass murders face the death penalty swiftly — (applause) — in years not decades.

And tomorrow, the President and the First Lady will travel to Dayton and El Paso to express the sympathies and support of the American people for all those impacted by these hideous attacks.

And as the President also said, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside…and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love.”  Now is the time to overcome evil with good.  (Applause.)

You know, it’s always been true throughout the long history of this country that in times of trial the American people turn to faith and prayer.

The Bible tells us that if His people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves and pray, that He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal our land.

And in this dark hour, for the people of El Paso and Dayton, we do well to pray — to pray for healing, to pray for the families of those that were lost and injured, and to pray for these communities and for our nation as a whole.

We also do well, in this time, to recognize that the greatest source of community in the modern world is faith.  Our nation was built on strong voluntary associations and depends on them more today than ever before.  From the American founding, voluntary associations — churches, synagogues, places of worship and religious education — have been at the center of American communities and they are the wellspring of American strength.  (Applause.)

But as you all in ADF know well, we live in a time where we’ve seen people driving religion from the public square, and it’s even become fashionable for many in the media and popular culture to mock religious belief.

The freedom of religion was enshrined in the Bill of Rights as our first freedom because it was at the center of the American founding and also because it’s the wellspring of order in a free society.

Our first Vice President, John Adams, said, and I quote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And that’s why, from early in this administration, President Trump has stood for the freedom of religion and stood with people of faith.  (Applause.)

As you know well, we’ve taken action to protect the freedom of speech in places of worship, and we’ve restored federal enforcement of our nation’s conscience laws.  We’ve taken action to protect the conscience rights of doctors and nurses and healthcare providers.  We’ve also gone to court to protect the right to religious expression in the public square.  And the Alliance Defending Freedom has been there every step of the way.  (Applause.)

And we thank you.  We thank you for your leadership.  We thank you for being champions of our first freedom and our values.  I look forward to our discussion with my friend, Mike Ferris.

But as I close, in the wake of the unspeakable violence that’s on all of our hearts, in El Paso and Dayton, the American people can be assured that we will confront this evil in our time.  We will work together to advance policies that make our families and our nation safer while protecting the constitutional rights of every American.

And to defend our nation, we will defend our freedoms, as well.  We will strengthen the foundations of faith and religion that have always been the wellspring of American character.

So, men and women of the Alliance Defending Freedom, thank you.  Thank you for your work.  Thank you for the honor of being with you today.  Keep standing strong for our first freedom and know that we’ll stand with you, because in this challenging time in the life of our nation, we need our first freedom and our vibrant communities of faith more than ever before.

Let’s pray for the people of El Paso and Dayton.  And as we pray, let’s resolve to act to make our communities safer.  And let’s resolve that we will do our part to ensure that our heritage of family and faith and freedom is renewed and preserved for this generation and the next.

God bless the people of El Paso and Dayton.  God bless all of you here who defend the faith and freedom of the American people every day.  And God bless America.