Clergy Group Seeks Meeting With Trump to Get Him to Support Progressive Social Agenda

The Rev. William J. Barber II at a worship service at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., on Sept. 4. Barber has been pastor of the church since 1993. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)
The Rev. William J. Barber II at a worship service at the Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., on Sept. 4. Barber has been pastor of the church since 1993. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A group of clergy members is seeking a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump to press him to support a progressive social agenda and to warn him that they will keep up the pressure if he doesn’t.

The effort is being led by the Rev. William J. Barber II, president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, a group of interfaith activists, who spoke out against Trump’s harsh rhetoric targeting Mexican and Muslim immigrants during the presidential campaign. Barber, who also is president of the North Carolina NAACP, also has spent the better part of the year battling Republican state officials over voting rights and cuts in social spending.

An open letter addressed to Trump and signed by more than 200 members of the clergy, raises concerns about the president-elect’s commitment to serving the poor and minorities, citing the stated positions and past actions of some of his advisers and Cabinet appointees. It asks to meet with him “in a house of worship prior to your inauguration.” A spokesman for the group said a copy of the letter will be sent to the Trump transition team via courier on Friday.

“We are deeply concerned by the policy vision that your Cabinet selections suggest,” the letter reads in part. “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.”

The letter calls on Trump to “uphold the most sacred moral principles of our faith and constitutional values.” It describes values protecting voting rights, fighting racism and poverty, providing universal health care and quality education, and reforming the criminal justice system.

On New Year’s Eve, Barber and other clergy members who make up a group called Repairers of the Breach, will hold a watch night service in D.C.

The letter and service are a continuation of a series of revival meetings held across the country during the past year to encourage religious and grass-roots activists to challenge the policies and actions of political leaders that could be described as hard-right, including cuts to Medicaid at the state level and threats to repeal the Affordable Care Act, laws that curb rights of LGBTQ people and policies that require voter IDs and reduce early voting.

Despite criticism by progressive clergy leaders, Trump won the solid support of conservative religious leaders, including Jerry Falwell Jr. and Franklin Graham, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for the Republican nominee.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Vanessa Williams

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