A diverse group of religious leaders gathered in Washington on Wednesday to deliver a powerful rebuke of the frightening list of racists and oligarchs Trump calls a cabinet. The coalition of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim figures condemned in no uncertain terms what they called the “Cabinet of Bigotry” and called on Trump to replace his appointees with more tolerant men and women.
The event, at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, was led by the Rev. Jennifer Butler, head of the progressive religious advocacy group Faith in Public Life. In her opening speech she railed against the appointment of notorious racist Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, neo-imperialist Islamophobe Mike Flynn as national security advisor, and neo-Nazi proponent Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist. “These unprecedented radical appointments threaten our very democracy, and degrade our national values,” she said. “People of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and those of us who stand with them are alarmed. And as people of faith we will stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters.”
Other prominent speakers at the event included Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of the Jewish group Bend the Arc, the Rev. William Barber, and Khizr Khan, the Muslim-American gold star father who was catapulted to fame by his stirring speech at the DNC this summer and Trump’s megalomaniacal response to it. Khan’s speech on Wednesday was a moving invocation of the comfort of faith in these trying times. “My faith teaches me that the Creator never puts His creation in jeopardy without also providing the solution,” he said. “We have chosen to do good in this time of difficulty as people of faith.”
The meeting was packed with prominent eminent progressive clergy, leaders of a religious left coalition that is growing stronger by the day in response to the danger posed by Trump’s presidency. These progressive religious leaders have been particularly alarmed by Trump’s proposed targeting of religious minorities. Several speakers on Wednesday were sure to condemn the Trump’s plans to ban Muslim immigration to the United States and force Muslims already in the country to register in a national database, fascistic proposals that recall some of the worst episodes in American history. “We don’t get to choose the historical moment we live in but we do get to choose how we respond,” Kimelman-Block said. “We were made for this moment. We must resist.”
The Faith in Public Life coalition intends to present Congressional leaders with a petition signed by more than 2,500 religious leaders of all faiths denouncing Trump’s list of cabinet appointees and asking lawmakers to reject them. Given Congressional Republicans’ notorious record of gratuitously obstructing every move President Obama made, such a proposal seems all too fair when the fate of our nation’s minorities – and therefore our democratic values themselves – are under threat.
Arguing that “white supremacy has no place in the West Wing or any other rung of leadership” the petition decries the “clear pattern that Mr. Trump is building a cabinet founded on bigotry and a racial ideology that degrades religious minorities, immigrants and people of color” and asks Congress to “call on President-elect Trump to reject these white supremacists and appoint advisers who understand that forging a more tolerant, united, and inclusive America is the best way forward.” The years ahead are likely to be quite difficult, particularly for the numerous groups that Trump and his Republican cronies would like to exclude from the American body politic. But it is precisely in such trying times that the progressive power of faith emerges as a potent force. All decent and tolerant Americans, regardless of our religious beliefs, must unite to face the existential threat that imperils us all.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.