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In Washington, clergy demonstrate against white supremacy

People participate in the One Thousand Ministers March for Justice in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 2017. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON (RNS) — From Protestant preachers to Jewish cantors to Catholic nuns, religious leaders of a range of faiths demonstrated in the nation’s capital for racial justice, criticizing the silence of some within their own ranks on the subject of white supremacy and questioning the morality of Trump administration policies.

Wearing stoles, robes and yarmulkes, the participants proceeded Monday (Aug. 28) on a 1.7-mile route from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial to the Justice Department. Organizers estimated close to 3,000 ministers took part, a larger turnout than suggested by the title of the event: “One Thousand Ministers March for Justice.”

“We wanted to say this nation is in moral trouble,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told those assembled at the King memorial.

One protester carried a sign saying “Repeal and Replace Trump Pence,” a reference to the efforts to halt the Affordable Care Act signed into law during the Obama administration. Another’s sign said “Black Lives Matter To This Rabbi.”

The march was originally planned to protest increased hate crimes, mass incarceration and discrimination and to call on the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to address those issues.

But the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., where neo-Nazi, white supremacist and white nationalist protesters clashed with anti-racism activists, prompted increased interest in the gathering.

Sister Patricia Chappell, executive director of Pax Christi USA, decried white supremacy but said, as a black Catholic nun, she believes “even our institutional church is racist” and needs to address some of its policies and practices.

Sharpton’s National Action Network spearheaded the march on the 54th anniversary of the March on Washington. Many of the people — from Buddhists to Baptists— had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them. Some speakers ticked off a number of other issues that concern them, such as criminal justice, voter suppression and health care reform.

“You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy march today to the Justice Department,” Sharpton said just before leading the march through downtown Washington. “And say we don’t care what party’s in. We are not going to be out.”

Sharpton said many of the people — from Buddhists to Baptists— had planned to be at the march before the Charlottesville events spurred more to join them.


RELATED: Rev. Al Sharpton’s thousand-minister march gains steam after Charlottesville


The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor from Baltimore, criticized evangelical ministers who support and advise the president “and declare erroneously an outright lie — that Donald Trump is a man of God.”

The Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor from Baltimore, speaks at the Thousand Ministers March for Justice on Aug. 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks Adelle M. Banks

“He is not God’s man,” Bryant said. “They do not reflect the body of Christ at large.”

The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and social justice organization, said the demonstration was “theological” because “the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith” were at stake. He called on clergy to speak out against white supremacy.

“We have to preach from every pulpit in America that racism is America’s original sin,” he said.

Wallis added that Trump should repent for pardoning former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt for his treatment of undocumented immigrants.

The interfaith crowd took part in a call-and-response conversation with speakers who urged them to sing, recite Scripture and high-five each other in shows of unity.

Sikh leader Rajwant Singh speaks at the Thousand Ministers March for Justice on Aug. 28, 2017, in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

“Let me tell all the white supremacists and KKK and everybody that America is a multifaith country — Do you all agree?” said Sikh leader Rajwant Singh, who was greeted by cheers. “America belongs to all of us.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recalled that Jews marched 5,000 years ago “out of Pharaoh’s slavery and bondage in Egypt.”

“And we know today that we do have the power to break the bondage of the modern pharaoh,” he said.

The National Action Network, a predominantly black, Christian organization, also was an organizer of a 50th anniversary commemoration of the March on Washington that was held in 2013 and drew throngs to the National Mall to remember the event that featured King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Monday’s march originally focused on clergy but some groups encouraged all people of faith to attend.

Some clergy who have supported or advised Trump gathered at the National Press Club instead of at the King Memorial and issued a statement about the need for the government and religious officials to do more to bridge racial divides.

“Naturally, we need government, business, law enforcement, and community stakeholders to partner with us,” their statement read. “The glue that will keep our nation together, though, is the Church and faith leaders.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.

45 Comments

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  • A man is known by the company he keeps. LOL! So everyone marching with Al Sharpton is a race-card playing bigot, a charlatan, a bigot, etc.
    Free advice to the other ministers: if you want to be taken seriously, tell the Rev. Al “Race Card” Sharpton to stay home.

  • Any group of ministers who would consider Al Sharpton to be a minister, and follow him, and allow him to speak for them, has no influence whatsoever on anyone who calls themselves a Christian.

  • Say what you want about Al Sharpton. At least he has enough sense to not to ask (and actively discourage) that people to bring weapons to the march. That gives him some level of moral standing in the effort.

    Same can’t be said about people seeking to “Unite the Right”.

  • Your post history shows you align with Nazism, White Supremacy and Trump. Sorry, that was redundant.

    Your god-emperor is Trump.

  • Al Sharpton aside, who here wishes to align themselves with the antifa thugs, cowards, and anarchists who violently resisted the expression of free speech by others on the campus of Cal Berkeley. None of the scheduled demonstrators offered any inflammatory rhetoric, yet they were set upon by these enemies of the 1st Amendment and the rule of law.

  • I can’t definitively declare whether there were, or were not, any real Christians in the march. However, I can declare that we are all made in the express image of God, and as such are required to recognize each soul’s innate dignity. God loves them enough that He gave His Only Son for them. We may not agree with their perspective on many issues, but no real Christian would refer to them as scum.

  • Al Sharpton political spokesman, I think that is a fairer and more fitting title for Sharpton than the reverend title. I say the same about the current presidents cast of cronies.

  • If he is ordained, he’s a reverend. After that, its between him and his denomination. I have no opinion on the subject. 🙂

  • I think Antifa is nothing more than a diversion here.

    For the last two weeks discussion of them has been used as a way to avoid discussion of the very distressing fact that our president has chosen to align himself with white supremacists. So I feel no need to discuss them here as anything relevant.

    That being said, we live in a really messed up world where we have to be reminded that protest marches are best done when people aren’t armed.

  • In the case of Berkeley, somebody — ANYBODY — needs to go down there and reclaim the right of ALL Americans, (even the ones whose opinions are unpopular or despised by most people!), to do their constitutional freedoms of Speech, Assembly, Marches and Protest.

    Antifa has now REPEALED those freedoms in the city of Berkeley, and also at their university. They control that town now. Everybody now knows that the Berkeley Police will back down in broad daylight, if Antifa shows up in full fighting mode. Antifa decides who can speak or march, and who can’t.

    It would have been nice if good ole Rev. Sharpton and his merry motley clergy, actually had the guts to go to Berkeley instead of DC, and then say out loud, to Antifa’s face, that EVERYBODY has the right to speak or march as long as it’s peaceful. Alas, no clergy guts to be found, especially Sharpton’s.

  • “Evangelize”? What “evangelize”? Look here sir (or ma’am), I don’t come to this back-alley religion forum for no “evangelism.” What gave you that impression?

    See, I show up in this locality strictly for one thing: Good-Ole, Late-Nite, Broken-Glass, Beer-Joint, Back-Alley Brawlin’s!!

    That’s me baby, 100 percent. And I’m a-gonna GIT what I came here for !!!

  • no such thing as racial justice, since it has everything to do with this country’s G-Dlessness.

    they even teach, this in your demonic antiG-D, and anti-christ schools. violence has everything to do with, the antiG-D or false g-d/all-h/idol group your associated with.

    if you, are the enemy of ELOHEEM and/or THEIR Son you should be expecting to get hell and death.

    these ministers, are the enemy of ELOHEEM and THEIR Son. as they, reject the president that ELOHEEM and THEIR Male Child somehow appointed as high priest.

  • if you, really are made in THE OUR IMAGE of ELOHEEM. then why, are so many acting like they are made in the our image and likeness of the demons? have you misread scripture that was not, talking about any of you?

    when it, was only talking about THEIR Son Adam. here again in the exact same physical story of The Creation as last time that none of you recognize yourselves here in again. where The Son of ELOHEEM, is put to death at the end of the fourth day and returned at this end of the sixth day as THEIR Male Child and Daughter.

    (and ELOHEEM said, “let US make Adam in OUR IMAGE, after OUR LIKENESS, they shall rule over the fish in the sea, the birds of the sky, and over the animal, the whole earth, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. so ELOHEEM created Adam in HIS IMAGE, in The Image of ELOHEEM HE created HIM; male and female HE created them.

    ELOHEEM blessed them, and ELOHEEM said to them, “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it: and rule over the fish in the sea, the bird of the sky, and evey living thing that moves on the earth. ”

    ELOHEEM said, “it is not good that Adam be alone; I will make Him a helper corresponding to Him.” Now ELOHEEM had formed out of the ground every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to Adam to see what He would call each one; and whatever The Adam called each living creature that remained it’s name. And The Adam assigned names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam He did not find a helper corresponding to Him.

    So ELOHEEM cast a deep sleep upon The Adam and He slept; and HE took one of His Sides and HE filled in flesh in It’s place. Then ELOHEEM fashioned The Side HE had taken from The Adam into The Woman, and HE brought Her to The Adam.)

  • as and ordained minister, it is between me and ELOHEEM not any denomination.

    the assignment of any true minister, is to relate what is pleasing to ELOHEEM and or THEIR Son not any of you.

    it is, too obvious what demons sharpton is mostly pleasing. but he is, most certainly not pleasing to ELOHEEM or THEIR Male Child.

    he, does not even accept being here in THEIR Story of The Physical Creation again for Seven Days. like all, the subtle talking unholy critters of the fields who reject being here in This ReAccounting of The Physical Story of The Physical Creation again.

    and in the physical world to come again, your going to get The Exact Same Story of The Physical Creation again. regardless of your, demonic mental attitudes against being physically here in IT.

  • “We wanted to say this nation is in moral trouble,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told those assembled at the King memorial.
    Well, he should know – as he is pointing the finger at the USA, he has three fingers pointing back at himself.

  • ““You’re going to see the victims of Nazism, the victims of white supremacy march today to the Justice Department,” Sharpton said just before leading the march through downtown Washington. “And say we don’t care what party’s in. We are not going to be out.”

    “The Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine and social justice organization, said the demonstration was “theological” because “the soul of the nation and the integrity of faith” were at stake. He called on clergy to speak out against white supremacy.

    “We have to preach from every pulpit in America that racism is America’s original sin,” he said.

    OK Jim, so you’re the founder and publisher of a political magazine called the Sojourners magazine that claims to be the conscience of evangelical and mainline Christians. From that lofty perch you declare statement that ” . . . racism is America’s original sin.”

    Well, sir, If you had very much “integrity of faith,” and a Christian conscience, you’d drop the “Rev.” as your lofty title, along with any pretense of being a Christian theologian and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Instead, you’d go join up with an organization dedicated to leading political marches and fighting racism full time. That would allow the authentic Christian ministers currently participating in those marches to again, replace their faith in politics with a renewal of their true calling to be preachers of Christ’s Gospel. Those ministers would soon realize that the Holy Spirit’s transforming power can change EVERYTHING in one’s life, including their racial attitudes. Those who suffer from the scourge of racism would be completely healed by the power of the Holy Spirit, and go on to live happy and productive lives that are socially, emotionally and spiritually free!

    These are the views of a non-political Christian layperson.

    .

  • I agree with your answer but my opinion is this. Racism is not a political problem as much as it is a people problem. I don’t have a problem with the reverend Al Sharpton organizing a march and inviting a lot of clergy to come and march with him. It raises awareness and that is a good thing. But racism is like a 12 foot crocodile, and a march is like hitting it in the tail with a baseball bat.
    150 years ago we fought a war over slavery the folks against it won. We didn’t fight a war for slaves, we fought a war against slavery, there is a difference. A civil war and a end to slavery is a big deal, but when it comes racism as a country we really only hit a crocodile in the tail with a baseball bat. I think our own history will tell us we moved it but we didn’t kill it.
    It’s not the message that is the problem, it is the delivery. A march led by Al Sharpton is going to have a political feel. Most people in this country feel hated by the political “other side” but most people in this country will honestly tell you they are against racism. We need people who have not thrown away a voice for a politician’s gain that can speak into people’s lives.
    Reverends need to pick up the fight from Al Sharpton but they need to make it personal to people, not political to people.

  • You would have a point if not for the fact that racism has a nasty habit of finding ways to be expressed in the political sphere. If not through outright attacks on the rights of people based on race, then on indirect ways such as indifference or hostility by government in general.

    We have a president who was elected pretty much on the strength of promises for a more racist government. One more willing to attack the rights of others using political forces. One willing to do things like attack the right to vote, attack rightful access to government services, and legally harass people on the basis of their skin color/ethnicity. So it is far less of a political thing to oppose racism with such a march as it is a way to push back on the assault on civil liberties our current government seems so hell bent on pursuing.

  • Maybe there wouldn’t be an Antifa if not for the pervasiveness of the fa(cism). So one way to deal with them is to remove their legitimacy. Actively work against the rise of right wing extremism through peaceful and lawful means and steal thunder away from extremists.

  • Marchers push back, I get it. Statues coming down push back I get it, support it. My point is a hate for statues will defeat a love of statues over the next few years and we will see more come down. That is my prediction. Another prediction is that when it comes to racism taking down statues will be like hitting the 12 foot crocodile in the tail with the baseball bat. True extremist not withstanding, there are people who voted for Trump and people who did not who will support arguements to keep attitudes the same when it comes to racial relationships today.
    I’m not trying to make an arguement that says Sharpton is on the wrong side of this issue politically. I’m not saying that their is not a political fight to be fought on the issue. I’m saying there is a better, more productive fight that can be fought. People like Trumps evangelical advisors are missing the oppertunity to fight that fight, they are keeping it in the political realm. Until men with influence like these men have decide to make racism a spiritual problem rather than a political it will have deep roots in this country. You don’t have to concede a belief in God to agree with this, but you might have to concede the affect of a belief in God in a individual. Personally I believe in God, I believe in the affect of that, I believe it can be negative, I believe it doesn’t have to be nor should it be.

  • The less socially and politically acceptable hate becomes, the more it is defeated. One doesn’t have to fight the hate in one’s heart. One has to fight the hate that is in one’s laws and government actions. That takes political actions. The rest fall in line.

    Think about how certain prejudices have gone from socially ubiquitous to only extreme fringes. That only comes when it becomes difficult to express them in public without recourse. When it becomes detrimental to express them as public policy. That takes political action. Culture follows suit thereafter.

  • 1865-2017=152 years
    If I do nothing about the hate in my own heart how long will I have to live for the political process to heal me?

  • This forum honestly needs a little more Festus Haggen twang to it. That’s what I’m-a here for, ma’am. Umm, what are YOU here for?

  • So you are saying no progress has been made socially on that front in all that time?

    We have gone from saying that certain races of people must be enslaved and considered chattel property to the point where being considered a racist is a social/financial/political liability.

  • Progress has been made nobody would deny that. But if we look at that progress we see that Jim Crow laws filled the void that slavery left. We hit the croc in the tail. We inch in the direction of something better, we all start feeling pretty good about things…then.
    We talk about building walls and keeping certain people out of our country and it is not a social/financial/political liability. Today it is called a winning strategy.

  • The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We can’t take it for granted.

    And a generation or two ago, walls and keeping certain people out would have been accepted by the nation at large as a matter of course and not bitterly opposed and ridiculed the way it is now. Hate is losing in the long term, but it is a war of attrition here. Grinding down slowly and painfully.

    I am an eternal optimist here because we as a nation can’t afford not to be. We can’t give in to the notion that hatred and bigotry are to be acceptable and too big to oppose. I have to believe and work towards the idea that we can be better than that. That we must try to be better. 🙂

  • It’s DISGUSTING that these phony ministers can gather for such a dumb fabricated racist agenda by the elite, and yet NOT one of them would dare be found in a march against SAME SEX MARRIAGE! Our nation is coming apart at the seams, specifically because of this kind of HYPOCRISY!

    SHARPTON, is a racist hooligan, and any minister who would even think of being a part of anything he would organize, is no minister.

  • Dude is ‘shacking up’ with a woman (still married) and has the nerve to mention the word ‘morality.’ Really?

  • marching with Sharpton will do nothing to address the issues. When men like him are considered leaders the rot in our morality is near complete.

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