Dozens of Evangelical Leaders Sign Open Letter Urging Trump to Denounce 'Alt-right' as 'Evil'

The publication of the letter comes days after controversial far-right, Steve Bannon-backed candidate Roy Moore defeated Trump's candidate in Republican primary in Alabama

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump points to Marine One as he departs for Bedminster, New Jersey, from the White House in Washington, U.S., September 29, 2017
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo

Dozens of evangelical leaders have written an open letter urging President Donald Trump to "consistently denounce all forms of racism" and to unequivocally declare the so-called alt-right "evil". 

CNN reported Friday that the letter had "been circulating privately among a coalition of pastors" and that its initial signatories "include Southern Baptist Convention President Rev. Steve Gaines, former SBC President Rev. Fred Luter and the Rev. T.D. Jakes, a mentor of Trump's top spiritual adviser, Rev. Paula White."

As of Sunday morning the letter had almost a hundred signatures. 

The letter praises Trump for signing a September 14 joint resolution condemning white supremacy and "for your words expressing the profound solidarity of the American people regardless of skin color and ethnic heritage." But, calls for Trump to take those sentiments further by "joining with many other political and religious leaders to proclaim with one voice that the “alt-right” is racist, evil, and antithetical to a well-ordered, peaceful society."

The publication of the letter comes days after controversial far-right, Steve Bannon-backed candidate Roy Moore defeated Trump's candidate in a runoff for the Republican Alabama Senate nomination. Moore has been criticized for controversial statements he has made in the past including that "homosexuality is an inherent evil" and refering to minorities as "reds" and "yellows."

Trump's informal Evangelical Advisory Board had largely stuck with Trump through recent controversies, although Broooklyn mega church pastor A.R. Bernard resigned following the violence in Charlottesville and Trump statements which many saw as not appropriately condemning white supremacy. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, is the only member of the advisory board thus far to have signed the letter. 

Read the full letter below:

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

FROM AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LEADERS:

WE NEED YOU TO SPEAK

Dear President Trump:

The events that took place in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 grieved us. We were deeply troubled by the public display of racism on that day. It reminded us of a time years ago when such brazen displays of bigotry and white supremacy were common and were upheld by political leaders.

We love the United States of America. We have overcome much racial injustice, but we fear that without moral clarity and courageous leadership that consistently denounces all forms of racism, we may lose the ground that we have gained toward the racial unity for which so many of us have fought. Our nation remains divided racially and ideologically. We struggle to stand together to denounce racial inequality and injustice in our country.

Mr. President, you have, on occasion, denounced the KKK and the Neo-Nazis by name. And, on September 14, 2017, you signed a joint resolution condemning white supremacy. With your signature on that important statement, you also said, "No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."

We thank you for signing the resolution and for your words expressing the profound solidarity of the American people regardless of skin color and ethnic heritage. The joint resolution was needed to provide moral clarity that white supremacy and white nationalism are outside of American values—indeed, it is outside human values—and will not be accepted in our country. We are grateful that the resolution addresses your role, Mr. President, to "speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy." Further, we commend your commitment to "use all resources available to the President and the President's Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States."

Now, we respectfully call upon you to respond to the resolution by speaking out against the alt-right movement. This movement has escaped your disapproval. We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists. This movement gained public prominence during your candidacy for President of the United States. Supporters of the movement have claimed that you share their vision for our country. These same supporters have sought to use the political and cultural concerns of people of goodwill for their prejudiced political agendas. It concerned many of us when three people associated with the alt-right movement were given jobs in the White House.

Alt-right ideology does not represent constitutional conservatism. The Constitution promotes the dignity and equality of all people. It maintains that we all have the ability to contribute to a just and free society.

The alt-right, however, attributes the uniqueness and achievements of America to the so-called superior capacities and virtues of Anglo-Europeans. American Renaissance editor and alt-right leader Jared Taylor said, "The alt-right accepts that race is a biological fact and that it is a significant aspect of individual and group identity and that any attempt to create a society in which race can be made not to matter will fail." The core of the movement is the protection of white identity. Richard Spencer, a prominent leader in the alt-right movement, desires to transform our country into an ethno-state that serves as a gathering point for all Europeans.

We request upon you to join with many other political and religious leaders to proclaim with one voice that the "alt-right" is racist, evil, and antithetical to a well-ordered, peaceful society.

While addressing a political convention in Illinois in 1858, in a climate and country divided over slavery, Abraham Lincoln quoted Jesus, saying, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." The current and growing racial divide in America must be confronted, or the divided America of which Lincoln spoke will revisit us. We can see the haunting potential of this turn. Ferguson and Charlottesville may be a foreshadowing of things to come. We must set aside our political, ideological and racial differences, particularly on the issue of the alt-right. We cannot be divided and still defeat this new demonic racist force.

Yes, it is time now for Christian churches to come together for the sake of the nation and the Kingdom of God. Recently, two major denominations, which have not always seen eye to eye on social and political issues, have come together on the issue of racial bigotry and injustice. In the aftermath of violence and protests in Charlottesville, leaders of these denominations called white supremacy and the alt-right racist and evil. Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention USA, said white supremacy cannot be dismissed with moral ambivalence. He explains, "There are not two sides when it comes to white supremacy. It is a belief system that is anti-Christian at its core and must be repudiated without confusion." Steve Gaines, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned the alt-right, describing the gathering in Charlottesville as "a gathering of hate, ignorance and bigotry" and stating the ideology violates core Christian beliefs.

These are powerful and strong words coming from the leaders of two historic Baptist Conventions, denouncing the alt-right by name. We also need healing and unifying leadership from our political leaders. President George H.W. Bush and Pastor Edward Victor Hill II modeled this type of leadership for us 25 years ago. They worked together to address the shared pain of the African American community and the nation in the aftermath of the exoneration of the police officers associated with the Rodney King brutality.

Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again. We need you, President Trump, to lead us in such an effort. America needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves. America is profoundly fractured and divided. We can envision the change that could emerge if you would provide the moral leadership we so desperately need for racial healing. Our polarized nation could unite around your leadership on this critical issue.

We are praying, and call upon God's people to humble themselves and pray that you would take the bold and moral step to denounce the alt-right. And we pray that we may see the beauty of people from all racial backgrounds dwelling together in unity, from which the blessings flow; and then we may see—God Bless America (Psalm 133:1).

Respectfully,

 

Initial Signatories: 

Dr. Bruce Ashford
Provost
Professor of Theology and Culture
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC

Rev. R. Marshall Blalock
Pastor, First Baptist Church
Charleston, SC

Rev. Alan Cross
Executive Director, Community Development Initiatives
Missional Strategist, Montgomery Baptist Association
Montgomery, AL

Dr. Nathan Finn
Dean of the School of Theology and Missions, Union University
Jackson, TN

Rev. Micah Fries
Senior Pastor, Brainerd Baptist Church
Chattanooga, TN 

Dr. Steve Gaines
President of the Southern Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church
Cordova, TN

Dr. J. D. Greear
Pastor, The Summit Church
Raleigh-Durham, NC

Bishop T. D. Jakes
Senior Pastor, The Potter’s House
Dallas, TX

Rev. Kenneth Jones
Senior Pastor, Como First Missionary Baptist Church
Fort Worth, TX

Dr. Fred Luter
Pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church
New Orleans, LA

Dr. William Dwight McKissic,
Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Baptist Church
Arlington, TX

Dr. Russell Moore
President, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
Nashville, TN

Dr. John Ogeltree
Senior Pastor, First Metropolitan Church
Houston, TX

Dr. R.A. Redwine
Senior Pastor, Soldier Creek Baptist Church
Oklahoma City, OK

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Sacramento, CA

Dr. Manuel Scott, Jr.
National Evangelist for the National Baptist Convention
Los Angeles, CA 

Dr. Walter Strickland
Associate Vice President of Kingdom Diversity
Assistant Professor of Systematic and Contextual Theology
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC

Mr. Lawrence Ware
Co-Director of the Center for Africana Studies and Diversity Coordinator
Philosophy Department of Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK

Dr. Jerry Young
President of National Baptist Convention
Senior Pastor, New Hope Baptist Church
Jackson, MS

Dr. Danny Akin
President
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC

Dr. Michael Bell
Senior Pastor, Greater St. Stephens First Church
Fort Worth, TX

Dr. René F. Brown
Pastor, Mount Zion First Baptist Church
Baton Rouge, LA

Mr. Dan Darling
Vice-President of CommunicationEthics and Religious Liberty Commission
Nashville, TN

Dr. Tony Evans
Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
President of The Urban Alternative
Dallas, TX

Dr. Robert E. Fowler
Senior Pastor, Victory Missionary Baptist Church
Las Vegas, NV

Rev. James D. Gailliard
Pastor, World Tabernacle Church
President - The Impact Center
Rocky Mount, NC

Dr. Ronnie W. Goines
Founding Pastor, Koinonia Christian Church
Arlington, TX

Dr. Joel Gregory
George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism
George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University
Waco, TX

Dr. John Jenkins
Pastor, First Baptist Church of Glenarden
Glenarden, MD

Dr. Ed Litton
Senior Pastor, Redemption Church
Mobile, AL

Dr. Rayford E. Malone
Pastor, Greater Beulah Baptist Church
Dothan, AL

Dr. James Merritt
Lead Pastor, Cross Pointe Church
Duluth, GA

Rev. Vance Pitman
Senior Pastor, Hope Church
Las Vegas, NV

Dr. C. J. Rhodes
Pastor, Mt. Helm Baptist Church
Jackson, MS

Dr. Ed Stetzer
Executive Director, Billy Graham Center for Evangelism
Wheaton College
Wheaton, IL

Mr. Jemar Tisby
President, Reformed African American Network
co-host "Pass The Mic" podcast
Phillips County, AR

Dr. Maurice Watson
Senior Pastor, Metropolitan Baptist Church
Largo, MD

Rev. K. Marshall Williams
Pastor, Nazarene Baptist Church
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Keith S. Whitfield,
Dean of Graduate Studies
Assistant Professor of Theology
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC