President Donald Trump called for a united effort to make America better to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night, inviting all to join in restoring the nation’s economy, defense and more.

But a prominent Christian leader in attendance said what struck him was Trump’s commitment to religious freedom.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, “Tonight President Trump gave encouragement to Americans of all backgrounds who have suffered the loss of their freedoms, especially religious liberty, because of destructive Obama-era policies.

Perkins said Trump “is taking his first steps to reverse the devastating trend of the government punishing those who live their life according to their deeply held beliefs.”

“That’s why it’s no surprise that recent polling finds the most enthusiastic supporters of Trump are evangelicals, the same ones who helped deliver one of the most stunning upsets in election history,” he said. “President Trump understands that if Americans don’t have the freedom to live according to their faith – whether it’s in the home, in the workplace, or in school – then we really can’t be free. That’s why I remain confident that President Trump will sign an executive order reinstating government-wide protections for religious liberty.”

Perkins noted Trump’s comments about rebuilding the military and charged that the policies of the previous administration dealt with the troops “as a laboratory of liberal social experimentation.”

“These policies have led to chaplains being disciplined for their faith, and religious speech being censored. Religious liberty in the military needs to be reinforced with policies that reflect the law, which allows men and women to not only believe, but act on those beliefs,” he said.

“I am hopeful that tonight’s speech will provide new momentum toward fulfilling the GOP’s promise of dismantling the disastrous Obamacare law and ending the forced partnership between taxpayers and organizations like Planned Parenthood. We are committed to assisting the president and congressional leaders in repealing and replacing Obamacare with a program that is patient-centered and respects the principle that federal funding and subsidies do not go to health care plans which include abortion.

“Tonight, President Trump opened the door wider to solutions that put America back on the right track. As the president continues to fulfill his promises, I believe he will see more Americans rally to his side to join him in making freedom mean something again in America.”

The House Freedom Caucus released a statement praising Trump for laying out “a bold, forward-looking vision for the country that puts the needs of Main Street before those of Washington, D.C.”

“Since his first day in office, President Trump has worked tirelessly to keep his campaign promises: from undoing President Obama’s jobs-killing regulatory regime, to taking action to secure our nation,” the caucus said.

“As President Trump alluded to this evening, there’s much work to be done ahead. We were pleased the president reaffirmed his commitment to fully repeal Obamacare and replace it with patient-centered, market-driven policy. We share his vision and will work to develop a repeal and replace strategy that does just that.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, observed that what’s been around probably isn’t going to stay around, and that’s good.

“Tonight we heard a strong case for altering the status quo and bettering the American economy and healthcare system. Whether charting pro-growth tax reform that lowers rates and makes America more competitive in the global economy, ensuring our trade agenda is the best possible for our job creators and innovators, or righting the many wrongs of Obamacare so patients are better served, President Trump presented an ambitious and worthy agenda to the American people and Congress,” Hatch said.

“As we move forward with efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with patient-centered reforms, and to address our outdated tax code and set a strong trade agenda so it better serves American families and job creators, Republicans will continue to work together in seeking real conservative solutions that will make a positive difference for our future.”

Likewise, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said Trump “highlighted America’s forgotten men and women, the people who have felt strangely exempted from the promises of the American dream.”

“Too many of our countrymen have watched their industries, schools, and communities wither under policies engineered by an administration that chronically underestimated our people,” Collins said.

“At their core, the November elections were decided by the Americans whom government forgot. Our nation renewed its conservative leadership in Congress and chose a president who would work with legislators rather than against them and against American citizens. Then and now, President Trump has reminded us that we cannot discount the Americans who have built up our economy only to have their own incomes siphoned off by taxes that target the middle class and by regulations that stamp out creativity.

“The 115th Congress joins the president in remembering individuals who have lost their access to tangible health care or jobs or basic liberties or all of the above, and we are responding both in word and deed. The House and Senate are writing, passing, and sending legislation to the White House as our people exchange a president who patronized them for a unified government that is working to empower them to write their own American stories.”

National Association for the Self-Employed spokeswoman Katie Vlietsta commented on Trump’s economic plans and hopes.

“As Congress and President Trump move forward with boosting the American economy with tax reform, any overhaul of the system must consider the over 27 million self-employed and micro-business filers who submit their tax returns as individuals. Any reduction in the corporate tax rate should also be reduced to the same levels for the individual rate. This coupled with rolling back burdensome and complicated regulations and providing relief to small businesses will result in a robust economy.”

The group stated, “The American small business community, including the largest small business demographic of the self-employed and micro-businesses nationwide, stand ready to work with President Trump and Congress to ensure a fair and equal playing field for all businesses, large and small.”

Margarita Zavala, a candidate for president in Mexico, objected to the U.S. effort to enforce its own borders and immigration laws.

She charged Trump “continues to nourish hate speech.”

“Trump’s call for a wall is offensive and useless, it is a solution to a problem that does not exist,” she claimed.

Trump invited to the event and introduced “four very brave Americans whose government failed them,” Jamiel Shaw, Susan Oliver, Jenna Oliver and Jessica Davis.

Shaw’s son was killed by illegal immigrant. The others are family members of Deputy Sheriff Danny Oliver and Detective Michael Davis, both killed by an illegal immigrant with a criminal record and two prior deportations.

The Democratic response came from former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who criticized Trump’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, and address illegal aliens breaking the law to enter the U.S.

He was the Kentucky governor who infamously refused to grant county clerk Kim Davis a minor religious accommodation following the Supreme Court’s creation of same-sex “marriage.”

As a Christian, she was unable to contribute to the services of marriage licenses for same-sex duos and requested permission not to take part since alternatives were available.

Beshear bluntly refused her request, the fight ended up in court and an activist federal judge, Dave Bunning, sent her to jail.

Her case was resolved when Beshear was replaced and his successor granted Davis’ request. The state legislature later codified it.

Network commentators noted that such a speaking position usually is given to a rising party star, but Beshear is retired. They suggested it was an indication of the state of the Democratic Party’s leadership.

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