More than 1,500 interfaith leaders charged President-elect Donald Trump with building a “cabinet of bigotry” in an online petition released Nov. 22. About 40 of the signers identify as Baptist, with affiliations including the Alliance of Baptists, the American Baptist Churches USA and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
“White supremacy has no place in the West Wing or any other rung of leadership,” the faith leaders said.
The letter addressed to Republican members of Congress, spearheaded by Faith in Public Life, said Trump’s cabinet picks to date point “to a clear pattern” of elevating voices of bigotry toward religious minorities, immigrants and people of color.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s choice for attorney general, “has a long history of bigoted comments towards people of color and civil rights organizations,” the faith leaders said, and as a U.S. attorney in 1984 tried to prosecute three Alabama civil rights workers for their voter registration work.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, they said, “formerly led the far-right website Breitbart News, which has ceaselessly promoted racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic rhetoric that degrades the human dignity of millions of Americans.”
The letter noted that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a member of Trump’s transition team vying to head the Department of Homeland Security, “has a horrifying record on civil rights and has advanced policies that disenfranchise people of color and discriminate against immigrants, and has called for a registry that would single out Muslims and other religious minorities.”
While respecting his military service, the clergy said Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, has called Islam “a cancer” and “used social media to stoke fears of Jews and Muslims.”
“National security experts know that such divisive fear-fueled rhetoric only leads to senseless hate crimes here in America, and needlessly puts at risk our men and women in uniform. … As proud Americans committed to defending the Bill of Rights and freedom of religion, we oppose putting in powerful positions these individuals who have stoked truly dangerous bigotry.”
“All of our faith traditions teach us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves,” the faith leaders continued. “After a painful and contentious election, the future of our nation rests in our ability to unite and work collaboratively for the common good of all people. But we cannot coalesce around these ambassadors of hatred, bigotry and intimidation.”
The faith leaders urged Republican members of Congress to call on the president-elect “to reject these white supremacists and appoint advisers who understand that forging a more tolerant, united and inclusive America is the best way forward.”
“Republican leaders must reject President-elect Trump’s cabinet of bigotry and demand advisers who embody the values that make our nation great — liberty, justice and freedom for all,” said Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life and the petition’s primary author. “Americans of every race, color, sexual orientation and religious background should feel included and valued in this nation we call home.”