More than 20 African American faith leaders from across the U.S. will deliver a “surprise” letter to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters on Monday afternoon, expressing deep frustration with Clinton’s policies and views on abortion, religious freedom and other issues of importance.
Faithwire has learned that the letter, titled, “An Open Letter to Hillary Clinton Regarding Religious Freedom for Black America,” will be delivered to Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, around 2 p.m. E.T. by a handful of signatories who are hoping to set up a meeting with the Democratic candidate to discuss their qualms.
Perhaps most notable is that the group — led by Dr. Jacqueline C. Rivers, a sociologist who serves as executive director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston — is made up primarily of Democrats and Independents.
“I think the most important thing is our commitment to religious freedom for all Americans, regardless of whether they are people of faith or not,” Rivers told Faithwire on Monday morning. “And our sense that it is extremely important for the black church, and in the current climate it is not being treasured and defended as is ought.”
She said the group’s primary purpose is to ensure churches retain the right to adhere to and practice their sincerely held religious beliefs in the public square, specifically when it comes to service to the poor and other related programs — areas in which church and government collaborate to help those in need (i.e. daycare programs, among other church-led services).
Rivers said the group wishes to “stand by a biblical understanding of marriage and not be forced to endorse” the government’s newfound view, adding that the group behind the letter wants to “be in a position where we can preach about the Bible’s position on service to the poor.”
“It’s really important that, as much as we observe the separation of church and state … that we’re not pressured,” Rivers added.
Below, see a portion of the letter addressing religious freedom concerns:
The drive to normalize immoral sexual behavior has inspired some to dishonor the memory of courageous blacks who experienced the unique horrors of white supremacy, slavery, rape, terrorism and apartheid in the U.S. Their argument that religious freedom laws are historically and existentially equivalent to Jim Crow laws rests on false assertions. Partisans who make these arguments have declared war on the truth of the black experience as well as on the freedom of faithful Americans to follow their consciences.
A well-financed war is now being waged by the gay and lesbian community in the US and abroad on the faith of our ancestors. Furthermore, there are some in your party who seek to criminalize our biblical texts as hate speech. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., we do not invite conflict. However, in cases where questions of conscience and religious freedom are at stake, we are prepared, for the sake of the gospel, to suffer the consequences of standing on our convictions. We must resist what Pope Francis has called the ideological colonization of people of faith. We do not organize to suppress the freedom of other groups. We do, however, insist upon having freedom to fulfill our call to righteous living and service to humankind.
One grievous example of open contempt for religious freedom within your own campaign was revealed by a recent revelation from Wikileaks: key players on your staff have sought to subvert Catholic teaching on sexuality by planting externally funded groups in the church to advance a politically correct agenda. What would you do as president to guarantee that religious freedoms are balanced against civil rights rather than being trumped by them?
As stated, the letter set to be delivered to Clinton addresses a variety of issues, including employment, education, “justice for the unborn,” violence and religious freedom; Rivers was particularly passionate about the issue of abortion.
“It’s very clear that this is taking an innocent life — the most vulnerable point in life and we as church leaders stand firmly against that,” she said. “What concerns us is that she made a statement some years ago that she wanted abortion to be very rare … and we haven’t seen her act on that … to ensure that, in fact, abortion rates decline.”
A press release announcing the letter noted that the group is “deeply troubled by the fact that in 2013 more black babies were aborted in New York City than were born” — something Rivers said is “heartbreaking.”
The group’s goal in delivering the letter is to secure a meeting with Clinton to discuss some of these issues in greater detail, though they’re also hoping to see more robust and faith-friendly policies emerge.
“We really want to see policy initiatives that come out of this,” Rivers said. “Our first primary focus is on religious freedom (and) moves towards there being a balance toward this social revolution that’s happening in the country and the rights of people of the faith to stand on the Bible.”
She was careful to note that she wants these same rights for people of other faiths as well as atheists and others who don’t affiliate with a specific denomination.
Rivers added, “Secondly, we would like to see what she proposes around employment … around making abortion rare as she promised and then also around the issue of violence. What is she going to do about police violence and black on black violence?”
As for the delivery of the letter, Rivers said she doesn’t think the Clinton campaign has any idea the note will be delivered this afternoon, adding that the group is “counting on an element of surprise” when they arrive at the campaign headquarters today.
And while no mention is made in the letter of Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, Rivers said she and the group are working on a similar letter to the GOP candidate, though she did not provide additional information.
“We’re hoping to get ongoing attention to the needs of the black community and collaboration with the black church,” she said.
Other Must-Read Stories: