WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump assured a high-profile gathering of Christian conservatives on Friday that his administration will defend religious organizations.

He’s promising a return to traditional American values while again subtly stoking the fire he helped ignite over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

Trump is the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit. He pledged Friday to turn back the clock in what he described as a nation that has drifted away from its religious roots.

He bemoaned the use of the phrase “Happy Holidays” as a secular seasonal greeting and vowed to return “Merry Christmas” to the national discourse.

He noted, as Christian conservatives often do, that there are four references to the “creator” in the Declaration of Independence, saying that “religious liberty is enshrined” in the nation’s founding documents.

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