U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to eliminate a law preventing tax-exempt houses of worship from engaging in political activity, saying religious liberty is under attack and the move will allow the faithful to speak freely and without fear of retribution.
In remarks at the annual National Prayer Breaking in Washington Thursday, Trump said the “sacred right” of religious freedom is threatened around the world.
“That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution,” said the U.S. leader. “I will do that. Remember.”
The law is named after President Lyndon Johnson, who put forward the proposal when he was a senator in 1954.
Trump hinted he may take the action during his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
“At this moment, I would like to thank the evangelical and religious community in general who have been so good to me and so supportive,” he said during the July convention. “You have much to contribute to our politics, yet our laws prevent you from speaking your minds from your own pulpits.”
During the prayer breakfast, Trump also said terrorism is a “fundamental threat to religious freedom” and vowed to pursue a tough fight to end it.
“It may not be pretty for a little while,” he said, adding “It will be stopped.”
WATCH: Trump on religious freedom
Speaking before a crowd of more than 2,000 people, the president defended his immigration plan, after his temporary travel ban on refugees from seven Muslim-majority nations sparked a global firestorm.
Trump said his immigration plan will ensure those allowed in the United States “fully embrace our values of religious freedom and personal liberty and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination.”
The president added, “We want people to come into our nation but we want people to love us. And to love our values. Not to hate us and to hate our values.”
Trump also addressed reports that he has had tense phone calls with the leaders of Australia and Mexico since taking office.
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having – don’t worry about it.” Trump suggested. “It’s time we have to be a little tough, folks. We’re being taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. It’s not going to happen anymore.”
Media reports said Trump had a contentious call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday over a deal made under the Obama administration to resettle 1,250 refugees who were intercepted while trying to reach Australia.
In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump questioned why the Obama administration agreed to take the refugees.
“I will study this dumb deal!” Trump said in the tweet.
The breakfast has been co-hosted in Washington since 1953 by The Fellowship Foundation, a non-profit group of people “joined together by our interest” in Jesus, and a committee of U.S. congressional members.
Dwight Eisenhower was the first U.S. president to speak at the event and every president elected after Eisenhower has followed suit.
Thursday’s event was co-chaired by two U.S. senators: Republican John Boozman and Democrat Chris Coons.