Vice President Mike Pence was the special guest speaker at the annual “Celebrate Freedom Sunday” at First Baptist Church Dallas, where told congregants that Christians need to hold fast to freedom and faith in “these challenging times.”
“It is good to be back in church,” Pence told the congregation before sharing a quote by President Donald Trump who recently said, “We will never stop fighting for the sacred values that bind us together as America.”
Trump, he added, also said, “'faith and family, and not the bureaucracy and government, is the true way of life,'” and the “'we live by the words of our national motto: In God we trust.'”
Pence continued, “The foundation of America is freedom, and the foundation of freedom is faith."
"From day one, President Trump has protected the freedom of all Americans. Only the nations that have the Lord as their God are blessed," he said.
"In these challenging times, let’s hold fast to freedom … and to faith. Let’s start praying for America again," he encouraged Christians before saying, "the greatest honor of my life is to be your vice president."
Dr. Ben Carson, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who also spoke at the service, said Christians should stand for what they believe in.
“Let’s not look to somebody else to solve our problems,” he told the congregants.
“We all have a sphere of influence. Within that sphere of influence, we can determine how we’re going to act, how we are going to treat our fellow men,” he explained. “We’re the ones who can push godly principles of loving your fellow men, caring about your neighbor, developing your God-given talents to the utmost so that you should become valuable to the people around you; you have values and principles that govern your life. And if we do that, not only will we be a great nation, but we will have one nation under God,” he concluded.
Before introducing Pence, Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress, a member of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board and White House Faith Initiative, praised the Administration for enacting “the most pro-life, pre-religious liberty, pro-Israel, pro-conservative judiciary in the history of America.”
Pence, the pastor added, “is a man of deep faith. … He believes in the power of prayer despite being ridiculed for his faith." He also hailed the vice president for being "a champion of religious liberty in our country and around the world.”
Some had criticized Pence for speaking at an in-person service at a time when the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has been rising in Dallas and other areas across the nation following a month of protests and the lifting of lockdown orders.
A reporter with NBC News' Dallas affiliate WFAA asked Jeffress to respond to those who believe masks infringe on their freedom.
“I tell them that’s ludicrous,” the pastor said.
“There’s nothing political about wearing a mask,” Jeffress added. “It’s a medical issue. I think people who have common sense realize a mask doesn’t only protect them, but it protects those around them as well. And as Christians especially, we’re supposed to be concerned not just for ourselves but the well-being of our weaker brother. In this case — those who might be more susceptible to the virus.”
The church had encouraged everyone to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and use the hand sanitizer stations set up throughout the church's campus. Those vulnerable to illness had been advised to stay home and watch online.
The church also said it would not go beyond about 2,200 people inside the main sanctuary where Pence spoke.
When Pence arrived in Dallas Sunday morning, he was greeted by Gov. Greg Abbott, Attorney General Ken Paxton and Speaker Dennis Bonnen at Love Field Airport. Pence and the others were seen wearing masks.
After leaving the church, Pence joined Abbott, Carson, Dr. Deborah Birx, Sen. John Cornyn, and other health experts at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for a closed-door briefing on COVID-19.