Dear Donald Trump: Will you Advance a Moral Agenda?

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Peter Morales, Rev. Dr. William Barber, and Rev. Dr. James Forbes deliver the "Higher Ground Moral Declaration" to the Republican National Convention, on behalf of 4,000 clergy nationwide. 

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon, Rev. Peter Morales, Rev. Dr. William Barber, and Rev. Dr. James Forbes deliver the "Higher Ground Moral Declaration" to the Republican National Convention, on behalf of 4,000 clergy nationwide. 

Dear Mr. Trump,

As you prepare to take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the U.S. Constitution, we write with deep concern and prophetic hope for our nation and world. This letter is to share a commitment to meet with you in a house of worship prior to your inauguration, if you desire to hear our voice of counsel and challenge.

At the heart of our religious traditions, the moral values of love, justice and mercy compel us to seek the common good in society. When you place your hand on the Bible and promise to fulfill the duties of the office to which you have been elected, you will assume leadership of a government that exists to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our children.”

Pursuing a more perfect union is serious work for any human being. We want to pray for you because we know this is an especially difficult task today.

In the prophetic tradition, we want to exhort and challenge you because you cannot do this work alone. Our sacred text honored by Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike declares we must do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before God. America’s Constitution begins “We the people…” because it points toward a form of government that requires a broad and engaged coalition of citizens in order to thrive. We want to pray and point towards these essential goals.

Mr. Trump, we hope it is your desire to be successful. Success is measured by how we welcome the stranger, care for the sick, care for the poor, and care for the hungry in practice and in policy.  In order to be successful in the eyesight of God, leaders must repent when they are wrong, and they must be committed to promote that which is rooted in justice and good will. As clergy dedicated to the care of souls, we know you can neither succeed in a way that pleases God nor fulfill the duties of your office unless you repent. All of us, even persons who hold powerful positions, are called to repent when we violate the deep principles of love, justice, and mercy towards all, especially the least of these.

Since your election, our communities have been fractured by harassment and intimidation. People of color and religious minorities are afraid. Poor working people who you appealed to in your campaign are disappointed that you have attacked their union leaders while appointing Wall Street elites who use them to your Cabinet.

We are deeply concerned by the policy vision that your Cabinet selections suggest. After inviting Steve Bannon’s white nationalism into the Oval Office, you nominated Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department—a man who did not receive Senate approval for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his long history of racial discrimination in Alabama. If he maintains his past positions on civil rights and voting rights, he could overturn and undermine years of victories and protections secured and signed in the blood of the martyrs. Equally insulting to African-Americans is your nomination of Ben Carson, a black man with no experience in government or housing, to head HUD.

But race can never be separated from class in America. We are equally concerned about Andy Puzder’s resistance to the movement for a living wage, which impacts over 60 million Americans and 54% of all African-Americans.  We are concerned about Tom Price’s expressed commitment to repeal the ACA and take away healthcare from people with preexisting conditions, veterans, and nearly 30 million Americans. We are troubled that you have chosen several people to lead federal agencies that they have publicly attacked in the past.

Both this nation and the rest of the world desperately need your heart to grow into a source of courage, so you might work with all people of goodwill to uphold the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values, which are:

  1. Protecting and expanding voting rights and ending voter suppression and unconstitutional  gerrymandering. We must also pursue women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBTQ rights, labor rights, religious freedom rights, all with a commitment to the fundamental principle of equal protection under the law.
  2. Pro-labor, anti-poverty, anti-racist policies that build up economic democracy through employment, living wages, the alleviation of disparate unemployment, a just transition away from fossil fuels, labor rights, affordable housing, direct cash transfers and other support for all families struggling to get by, and fair policies for immigrants; and by critiquing policies around warmongering that undermine our moral standing and ability to address domestic issues;
  3. Equality in education by ensuring every child receives a high quality, well-funded, constitutionally diverse public education, as well as access to community colleges and universities and by securing equitable funding for minority colleges and universities;
  4. Healthcare for all by expanding Medicaid in every state, ensuring access to Medicare and Social Security, moving decisively towards a universal, transparent, and equitable healthcare system, and by providing environmental protection and protecting women’s health;
  5. Fairness in the criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system for black, brown and poor white people and fighting the proliferation of guns;

We do not believe that these are left or right issues. They are right or wrong issues. And while we know no human being is perfect, we wish to speak with you about these moral issues because far too much is at stake for you to succumb to your worst demons while in public office.

Our faith calls us to love all people but this love can never refuse to tell the truth and stand against hate, systemic racism, and economic inequality. We cannot simply congratulate you on your victory and say, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. We are bound by our vows to tell the truth in love and stand together for justice, love and truth.

As this tumultuous year draws to a close, we will hold a National Watch Night Service on December 31st at the historic Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, DC. We will gather to remember the enslaved people who came together to celebrate the possibility of a more perfect union on the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Like them, we will also enlist free women and men to fight for freedom and justice for all people in 2017 and beyond.

Over 4,000 clergy have signed onto our Higher Ground Moral Declaration. On behalf of them and the millions of Americans they serve, we request a meeting with you in a house of worship to pray and discuss these matters. We are interfaith, interracial, intergenerational clergy. You may contact us through the Repairers of the Breach office to arrange a time and location.

 

Sincerely,

 

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II

President and Senior Lecturer, Repairers of the Breach

Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church

Architect of “Moral Mondays” Movement

Rev. Dr. James Forbes

Senior Minister Emeritus, The Riverside Church

President, Healing of the Nations Ministries

National Minister, Drum Major Institute

Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon

Acting Executive Minister, United Church of Christ's Justice and Witness Ministries

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS

Executive Director, NETWORK Lobby

Founder, “Nuns on the Bus”

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

Co-Director, Kairos Center for Rights, Religions, and Social Justice

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson

President, Auburn Seminary, New York City  

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Erica Williams

National Social Justice Organizer, Repairers of the Breach

Bishop Tonyia M. Rawls

Founder and Co-Director, The Freedom Center for Social Justice

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Director, School for Conversion

Rev. Dr. Nancy Petty

Pastor, Pullen Memorial Baptist Church

Rev. Peter Morales

President, Unitarian Universalist Association

Imam Tahir Kukiqi
Albanian Islamic Cultural Center of NYC

Rev. Jennifer Butler
Executive Director, Faith in Public Life

Imam Al-Hajj Taleb 'Abdur-Rashid
The Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood Inc.

Rev. Dr. Robert M. Hardies
Senior Minister, All Souls Church Unitarian

Lisa Sharon Harper
Chief Church Engagement Officer, Sojourners

 

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