On Thursday morning, House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise recalled the tremendous role his faith played in his recovery from being shot last summer and declared that "you can't separate church and state" at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. Hear his speech in the video below:
Among masses of religious and political leaders who gathered for the prayer event at the Washington Hilton Hotel, Scalise recalled how his faith led him to fight for his life after he and at least six others were shot by alleged shooter James Hodgkinson at the Congressional baseball practice on June 14:
"The first shot comes and I was looking in the direction and I saw a tractor. I thought a tractor had backfired. And then all of a sudden the second shot comes and by the third shot I was hit and fell to the ground and my first instinct was to start crawling and try to get away. I was crawling and then eventually my arms gave out."
"And once my body just kinda went into a shutdown mode I still could hear everything that was going on," Scalise continued. "I couldn't see anything so the first thing I thought of was to pray. I just started praying and I said I'm gonna put this in God's hands."
Scalise also insisted that the expectation of total separation of church from state is unrealistic and praised his party's efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which forces religious leaders to give up their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status if they choose to give sermons endorsing specific candidates ahead of elections and prohibits all nonprofits from raising money for political candidates.
"This is a nation that was not founded in agnostic views. This was a nation founded with a deep belief in God," Scalise declared. "Our founding fathers talked about it when they were preparing to draft the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Constitution. If you go to the Jefferson memorial right now, go read this inscription from Thomas Jefferson: 'God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?' You can't separate church from state."
"I'm a Catholic, we have people of all faiths. This idea that you can just check your faith at the door, people would say," he continued. "When you're voting on issues how do you separate your faith from the way you vote? Faith is part of who you are. It's part of who I am, it's part of what establishes the values that I bring to this job and I would hope that everybody brings a set of values rooted in faith when they're making consequential decisions that don't just affect our country but affect the entire world."
"I'm proud to say that the House was able to successfully pass a repeal of the Johnson Amendment last year so that people of faith aren't threatened in their own workplace if you're trying to express your own views," he concluded. "You shouldn't be fearing intimidation by your own government that you can't express your faith freely. This all comes to us as part of the founding of this great nation."