VP Mike Pence speaks at Focus on the Family’s 40th anniversary celebration

Julia Trowbridge

COLORADO SPRINGS — Around 1,600 people attended Vice President Mike Pence’s speech for Focus on the Family‘s 40th anniversary celebration on Friday morning.

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Pence started speaking after 11:45 a.m., despite planning to start at 10:30 a.m., according to The Gazette. In his speech, he praised the organization for their continuous faith in the Bible and the institution of marriage, which aligned with Pence’s views and the ministry’s views against abortion and LGBT rights.

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Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the 40th anniversary celebration of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs. Topics ranged from the US’s involvement in the Middle East to the Trump administration’s stance on abortion. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

“(Focus on the Family) is the cornerstone of American life for so many Americans, an organization that’s been a champion without an equal comparison for American families, an example of grace that’s inspired millions of your model of Christian Love,” Pence said, addressing the members of the ministry.

Focus on the Family, a ministry group in northern Colorado Springs that was founded in 1977, aims to spread the Gospel, nurture the God-ordained institution of the family and promote biblical truths worldwide, according to their website.

The organization has supported Pence through many controversies and critiques, including his conservative behaviors, like not consuming alcohol or eating dinner with another woman when his wife is not present, and signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as stated in the Denver Post.

The celebration started with an introductory speech by Jim Daly, the current president of Focus on the Family, and included other speakers and worship songs performed by Steven Curtis Chapman, whom Pence said is “one of the most inspiring Christian artists in the world.”

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Invited guests to Focus on the Family’s 40th anniversary bow their heads in prayer after a speech by Vice President Mike Pence. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Cheers erupted from the ministry as Pence mentioned President Donald Trump and Trump’s support for Focus on the Family. Pence mentioned supporting the work of Christ’s pregnancy centers across Indiana by donating ultrasounds, which he said “will save innocent lives.”

Throughout his speech, Pence used humor and made constant references to the Bible and the debt Americans have to the ministry.

“(Focus on the Family) has presented love and compassion to everyone of every background and experience, and has strengthened marriages,” Pence said. “(The ministry) represents timeless values our society needs to hear, now more than ever.”

Pence also talked about his personal connection to Focus on the Family.

“(Focus on the Family) has been a blessing to millions, including my little family” Pence said, mentioning a booklet from the ministry that he raised his family with, and the impact the ministry has had on his children’s’ lives.

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Diane Pasnow, former senior executive of Focus on the Family, thoroughly enjoyed Pence’s speech. Her husband, Paul Pasnow, agreed that he was an incredible speaker.

“I was really encouraged,” Diane Pasnow said. “He’s a good person. It’s one thing to have someone as a public official, but he’s genuinely a good person, and that’s really encouraging.”

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Members of Redneck Revolt and the Colorado Springs Socialists gather adjacent to Focus on the Family protesting Vice President Mike Pence’s visit. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

Despite the large group of attendees, around 30 protesters gathered outside of the building Pence spoke at before his speech began.

According to The Gazette, protesters greeted Pence in clothing similar to that of the Hulu television show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a society that treats women as property, to speak out on sexism in modern society.

Another local northern Colorado Springs group, the Redneck Revolt, was present and held signs and red flags, representing the socialist group’s views.

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Members of Redneck Revolt and the Colorado Springs Socialists gather adjacent to Focus on the Family protesting Vice President Mike Pence’s visit. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

According to John Brown, a member of the Redneck Revolt, this was the first time that the socialist group has protested outside of the Focus on the Family ministry, and the group has a strong belief in their purpose for protesting.

“Focus on the Family is a hate group that advocates for the destruction and deprivation of gay people, trans people, women, and everybody who needs access to resources,” Brown said. “Today, we are here to say no and to advocate for our right to access resources, to healthcare, and help for our community. It’s self defense.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com and on Twitter @chapin_jules.