GOP 2024 Presidential Contenders Share Stage in DC

Conservatives waged a 50-year battle to overturn Roe v. Wade, but when the U.S. Supreme Court gave them that long-sought victory in its Dobbs ruling last summer, the dog that caught the car lost its nose for the chase.

In that vacuum, six-of-six pro-life ballot measures failed, and Democrats blunted an anticipated “red wave” in the 2022 mid-terms by convincing enough voters that the Dobbs ruling is a threat to women’s rights instead of a guarantor of a fundamental human right—the right to life.

That must never happen again, seven presidential candidates and a host of other speakers vowed on June 23 during the 12th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition Major Policy Conference at the Washington Hilton in Washington.

“As all of you gather here on this momentous anniversary, it’s important for us to remember the battle for life is far from over,” former vice president and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Mike Pence said. “We have not come to the end of our cause. We’ve simply come to the end of the beginning.”

Pence is one of 11 2024 GOP presidential primary candidates slated to speak—seven June 23 and four June 24—during the FFC’s three-day “2023 Road To Majority” conference, regarded as the largest annual assembly of Christian political advocates and conservative organizers in the United States.

But the 3,000 activists in attendance, and the many thousands viewing via livestream, weren’t there to hear what the candidates would do; the candidates were there to tell them how they’d get it done.

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks during the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at Hilton in Washington on June 23, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Goal: Federal Abortion Law

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) early in the day framed the discussion: A federal ban on abortion no later than 15 weeks and a Christian-led existential fight to preserve “truth.”

“Yeah, we should be happy. Finally, after 50 years, we got Roe v. Wade off the books. But I’m telling you right now, the war, the fight, is not over,” Graham said. “The war is not won. The fight continues.”

Conservatives, especially Christians, have a misplaced discomfort about the separation of church and state, a reluctance to rally around their faith in debates over public policy, Graham and Hawley said in their addresses.

But there’s no choice now. Progressives are exerting “woke” ideologies—their “religion”—through Congressional Democrats, the Biden administration, the courts, and the media, they said.

With the introduction of the Women’s Health Protection Act in Congress, Graham said, progressive and liberals are trying to impose their religion, their ideology, on the rest of the nation.

“Their bill would overturn every state’s pro-life laws. They would set, as a national standard, abortion on demand up to the moment of birth using taxpayer dollars,” Graham said.

Therefore, Christians should not be shy about using religion as a bonding force with other people of faith in lobbying for a federal bill restricting abortion nationwide, he said.

“I prefer federalism, but federalism doesn’t require me to sit on the sidelines and watch our nation become China,” Graham said. “To those who believe there’s no role for the unborn in Washington, you are wrong. Our Constitution does not require me, a United States senator, to sit on the sidelines and not be able to say anything about a baby being aborted in California in the ninth month. I will not do that. That is not required by our Constitution.

“Our Constitution is about life, liberty and pursuit of happiness right?” he said. “How can you pursue happiness if you’re dead?”

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Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at Hilton in Washington on June 23, 2023.(Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Pro-Life For Life

That theme was reflected in ensuing speeches by Pence and six other GOP presidential hopefuls—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Vivek Ramaswamy, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

“Now some you will hear, from this very podium, some who will say that the Supreme Court returned to the issue of abortion only to the states and nothing should be done at the federal level,” Pence said. “They’ll say continuing the fight to protect life would produce state legislation that is too harsh. Some have even gone on to blame the overturning of Roe vs. Wade for election losses in 2022.

“But let me say from my heart, every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortion before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard,” he said.

“As president,” Hutchinson agreed, “I would fight to make sure taxpayer funds are not used to support abortion. And if Congress acts, I will sign a federal law to restrict abortion as well.”

DeSantis said as Florida governor he lobbied for and got a heartbeat bill adopted this year. As president, he would continue “promoting a culture of life” because “it is the right thing to do. Don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t.”

But being pro-life “doesn’t end there,” and Christians must lobby Congress and state legislatures for “family-friendly policies,” such as those in Florida that have eliminated sales taxes on all baby items.

Chris Christie recalled his two gubernatorial terms tangling with New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled legislature, finding ways to make a pro-life difference.

“For eight years, they sent me Planned Parenthood funding in New Jersey, and for eight years, I vetoed it, and we sustained every one of those vetoes. No Planned Parenthood funding for eight years.”

But even in states with liberal abortion laws, conservatives and Christians can fight abortion by being pro-life “longer than the nine months in the womb,” Christie said.

Fighting abortion isn’t just about saving lives, it’s about creating lives, Suarez said, including lives like his.

“I am literally a product of the pro-life movement myself. My parents actually met at a pro-life rally,” he said. “They have bravely lived their pro-life ethic by raising a family of four, myself and my three sisters.”

Suarez said it is with “profound gratitude to God for the celebration of the anniversary of what historians will call the greatest day for defending life in our history.”

But there is history to be made, and instead of arguing over rights and wrongs, conservatives and Christians can end abortion by passionately advocating for creating life, he said.

“How many great people will be born in the future that can shape our world?” Suarez asked.

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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks during the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at Hilton in Washington on June 23, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

‘Who is Going to Lead This Country?’

As with Graham, Hawley beseeched Christians to get into the fight and not be intimated by separation of church and state fears from inserting their faith into local, state, and national politics.

“President Reagan told a group of evangelists 40 years ago this year that the focus of evil in his day was Soviet Marxism,” Hawley said. “Well, now we face a new Marxism that is rising in this country, a cultural Marxism that has infected our universities. It has taken over much of the media, the entertainment industry, and it now totally controls the Democrat Party.”

He compared “new Marxism” to a religion, one the threatens other religions.

“The left, they’re always saying ‘separation of church and state, separation of church and state,’ but here’s the deal: These new Marxists want to give America a new religion. They want to impose on us the religion of ‘woke.’ It is the religion of transgenderism, critical race theory, and open-borders multiculturalism, and they are shoving it down our throats. The leftist elites who proclaim themselves as the priests of this new religion, they’re the high priests.

“Here’s the problem,” he continued. “The country doesn’t agree with them. They’re wrong. We’re right. It’s easy. And the question of our time is, who’s going to lead this country? Who’s going to run this country? Is it going to be ‘We the people’, or is it going to be the new priests of wokeism? That’s a question we face. And now in this time of challenge and trial, we need Christians to rise to lead.”

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Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority conference at Hilton in Washington on June 23, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

The Battle For ‘Truth’

Ramaswamy said the very meaning of reality, of truth, is at stake. To have faith is to believe in something bigger than yourself, something that can’t always be proven. That is why people of faith must defend truth from the faithless who believe in nothing, he said.

“America is a nation founded on the truth that we should not be apologetic, to stand up and speak for the truth,” he said. “So let’s do that today. Let’s talk truth. Let’s say what’s true without fear.

“God is real. Unborn life is life. There are two genders. Fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity. Reverse racism is racism. An open border is not a border,” Ramaswamy said. “Parents determine the education of their children. The nuclear family is the best-known form of governance to mankind. Capitalism is the best system known to lift people up from poverty. We have three branches of government in this country, not four, and the U.S. Constitution is the strongest guarantor of freedoms in human history. That is the truth.”

People of faith must join the fight before there is no more truth, he said. “We will not back down from the truth. We will stand up for the truth. We will fight for the truth.”

Christians must lead the fight, Hawley said.

“Now we need to stand up again for the right of the people to run this country, for the right of the people to be in charge. And Christians, Christians have to lead this movement,” he said. “Why did the United States of America embrace the liberty of the individual? You and I know why. It’s because Jesus Christ went to a cross to pay for the sins of every individual. It’s because we know the dignity of every individual because we believe in a God who created every individual with worth.

“That’s why we believe in democracy because we, the people, have the right to rule because we, the people, have rights given to us not by government, not by corporations, not by the liberal elite, but given to us by God, and we will not surrender those rights. We will reclaim them for our day. That’s the task in front of us. We need Christians, again, to rise up and take the lead. Listen, let me just be really clear on this for those in Washington who don’t get it. Let me say it really plainly: There is no future for the conservative movement without Christians.”

Conference’s Final Day

Four presidential candidates will address the conference on June 24, its third and final day. Former president and frontrunner Donald Trump will be preceded by Nikki Haley, Larry Elder, and Perry Johnson in delivering their 2024 GOP presidential campaign pitches.

From The Epoch Times

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