Members of the leadership of several evangelical Christians late last week urged President Donald Trump to condemn white supremacists more forcefully and unequivocally — specifically those in the alt-right.
A letter circulating among pastors who belong to the group notes Trump’s efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right “by name.”
“This movement has escaped your disapproval,” the letter, obtained exclusively by CNN, reads. “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.”
CNN reports that among the first signers of the letter are Southern Baptist Convention President Rev. Steve Gaines, former SBCPresident Rev. Fred Luter, and the Rev. T. D. Jakes, a mentor of Trump’s top spiritual adviser, Rev. Paula White. One member of Trump’s informal Evangelical Advisory Board, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, also signed the letter.
Trump was roundly criticized for his equivocation following the demonstrations last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, by white nationalists and neo-Nazis, after he claimed that “both sides” were to blame for violence and said there were “some very fine people” among the white nationalist and neo-Nazi protesters.
Trump signed a congressional resolution on 14 September, which condemned the violence and renounced “white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other hate groups.”
“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,” Trump said after signing the resolution.
The signers of the letter, however, are calling on Trump to take further steps to address the issue.
“Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again,” their letter reads. “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 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.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the initiative behind the letter comes after the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. largest protestant denomination, struggled earlier this year with its own decision to condemn the alt-right.
At the denomination’s annual meeting in June, Southern Baptists initially rejected an effort to condemn the alt-right, triggering outrage among pastors who went on to force a vote on a resolution that condemned “every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy.” The resolution ultimately passed.