Several high-profile conservative evangelical Christians have urged President Trump to explicitly condemn white supremacy – particularly the ‘alt-right’ – in an open letter.
‘This movement has escaped your disapproval,’ the joint letter addressed to Trump, obtained by CNN, reads.
It follows the August neo-Nazi protests in Charlottesville, Virginia that left one counter-protester dead. Trump made several controversial comments in the wake of the protests, at first condemning violence ‘on many sides’. Later, he condemned racism but also combatively defended the white nationalists and their right to demonstrate, saying they included ‘some very fine people’.
Titled ‘We need you to speak’, the open letter from several prominent US church leaders, including Russell Moore, T D Jakes and Southern Baptist Convention President Rev Steve Gaines, urges Trump to go further and denounce the alt-right ‘by name’.
‘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,’ the letter reads.
‘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.’
The letter noted that Trump has ‘on occasion, denounced the KKK and the Neo-Nazis by name’ and thanked him for signing a joint resolution on September 14 that condemned white supremacy, but urged clearer naming of the ‘alt-right’ movement.
The letter, organised by Southern Baptist leaders, comes after the Southern Baptist Convention voted in June to explicitly condemn the alt-right, despite at first rejecting the resolution.
Signatories of the letter include Southern Baptist leader Dr Russell Moore, an outspoken critic of Trump’s during the presidential campaign, and T D Jakes, a mentor to the Rev Paula White, one of Trump’s top evangelical advisors. Influential Hispanic leader Rev Samuel Rodriguez also signed the letter, joined by a slew of evangelical names such as Southern Baptist Convention President Rev Steve Gaines, Ed Stetzer, James Merritt and J D Greear.
It added: ‘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.’
The White House did not immediately responded to CNN’s request for a comment.
The full letter can be read here.