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“Have We No Decency?”: National Cathedral questions Americans’ silence over Trump’s racism

The letter from religious leaders come after Trump’s recent racist attacks.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend Christmas Eve services at the National Cathedral on December 24, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

In a scorching letter condemning President Donald Trump’s recent racist attacks, the Washington National Cathedral questioned all those who continued to remain silent.

On Tuesday, the capital’s Episcopal cathedral released a letter titled “Have We No Decency? A response to President Trump,” which was signed by the church’s top leadership.

“This week, President Trump crossed another threshold,” wrote the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral; and the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, canon theologian of Washington National Cathedral, about Trump’s attacks on the city of Baltimore and its congressional representative, Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

“Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons,” they continued, “not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?”

The letter comes after Trump attacked Cummings on Twitter and called his Baltimore district a “rat and rodent infested mess,” and a “dangerous & filthy place.” As chair of the House Oversight Committee, Cummings has long been at odds with Trump. As Vox’s P.R. Lockhart points out, the president used old and racist tropes of black communities as being dirty and unhygienic in retaliation.

Earlier this month, Trump also launched racist Twitter attacks against four Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib — by telling them to “go back” to the “corrupt” countries he said they are from. The letter warned that Trump’s rhetoric would empower white supremacists and could eventually lead to violence.

The group made their message clear: “Words matter. And Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.”

Despite criticism toward Trump, however, the letter was intended for the people, not the president. The letter challenged its readers to end their silence over Trump’s racism because to stay silent is to “condone the violence of these words.”

“When does silence become complicity?” the church leaders wrote. “What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.”

Although the Washington National Cathedral — “a house of prayer for all people” — rarely delves into politics, it is no stranger to clashing with the Trump administration. When Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, the cathedral was quick to announce that it would always welcome the transgender community.

“To those that believe this decision advances Christian values, it does not,” a letter from the cathedral wrote. “Rather, it is a gift to those who seek to misuse religion to justify discrimination against the transgender community.”

The cathedral has also criticized the administration’s family separation policy at the border after then-US Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible to justify the government’s actions. (St. Paul’s words in Romans 13: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”)

“Yes, it may be legal to separate these children from their parents,” Hollerith said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s moral, and it certainly doesn’t reflect God’s love and care for children, especially those most in need.”

This time around, the cathedral is doing more than just condemning the administration. It wants its congregation to take action.

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