President Donald Trump is not only snubbing a United Nations climate change summit on Sept. 30, he has scheduled a counter-event at the U.N. complex in New York City to celebrate religious freedom.
Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to introduce Trump at the event, which will be attended by religious leaders and activists. Trump’s event will be in a conference room with a capacity of 250 people, the New York Post reported.
The U.N.’s annual climate change summit features the heads of about 60 nations.
“The President is working to broaden international support for ongoing efforts to protect religious freedom in the wake of increasing persecution of people on the basis of their beliefs and a growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship by state and non-state actors,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, according to The Christian Post.
“The President will call on the international community to take concrete steps to prevent attacks against people on the basis of their religion or beliefs and to ensure the sanctity of houses of worship and all public spaces for all faiths,” the statement noted.
The event is titled, “Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.”
“The President of the United States has decided to set his own agenda for the United Nations General Assembly and that agenda will involve the most sweeping, focused statement on religious freedom ever delivered by any President of the United States to the United Nations,” Johnnie Moore, a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said.
“Not participating and yet showing up at the building is throwing down a gauntlet,” said David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute, according to The Guardian.
Others said Trump will distract from the climate change event.
“He’ll clog up the whole system,” Ireland’s Mary Robinson, a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told The Guardian. “He won’t go to the climate summit and he wants the distraction factor, I suppose.”
The U.S. will be represented at the climate change summit. Marcia Bernicat, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, will attend, according to CNN.
In a recent speech to House Republicans, Trump eviscerated a House Democratic effort to “put America back into” the Paris climate agreement, from which Trump withdrew the United States.
“But that would have been a disaster for us. It would have cost us a tremendous fortune. They were going to take away our wealth. They were going to say we can’t do certain businesses. We can’t take the oil and gas. We can’t do anything. This would have been one of the great travesties,” Trump said, according to a White House transcript of his remarks.
“The Paris Accord would do nothing to improve our environment. It would only punish our country while foreign polluters operate with impunity. Isn’t it incredible?
“You look at China, you look at India, you look at Russia, you look at so many other places, their smokestacks are pouring out. Everything is pouring out. And I want to be clean. And we’re going to be clean,” Trump said then.
In July, Trump, a strong supporter of religious freedom, outlines his views on combatting religious persecution during a White House meeting with religious leaders.
“In America, we’ve always understood that our rights come from God, not from government. In our Bill of Rights, the first liberty is religious liberty. Each of us has the right to follow the dictates of our conscience and the demands of our religious conviction.
“We know that if people are not free to practice their faith, then all of the freedoms are at risk and, frankly, freedoms don’t mean very much,” Trump said then, according to a White House transcript of his remarks.
“That’s why Americans will never tire in our effort to defend and promote religious freedom. I don’t think any president has taken it as seriously as me.
“To me, it’s very important,” he said. ” It’s vital. It’s really vital.”
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