Statement on the Initial Actions of the Trump Administration

The flurry of activity during the first few days of President Trump’s administration shows a pattern consistent with Trump’s statements during his campaign.  The effect of the executive orders is to divide us along ethnic and religious lines and to raise distrust among the groups.  This keeps those with similar interests and needs from working together.  The distraction allows the administration to curtail the civil rights of Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQs, and other vulnerable groups.   For example, efforts to limit the availability of birth control and access to abortion services affect mostly poor, and thus vulnerable, women.


The mission of the Progressive Religious Coalition (PRC) is to unite people around common values rather than allow differences in how we came by those values to divide us.  As religious leaders, we see these divisive actions as profoundly immoral.  Morality is about how we treat each other, and the Trump administration’s actions are designed to make us see each other as enemies who should be treated accordingly.  Neither the motives nor intentions of enemies can be trusted, so it is impossible to work together on common interests.  These actions are in direct opposition to all the great religions that teach we are brothers and sisters and shouldn’t treat others in ways we wouldn’t want to be treated.


The Constitutional ban on a religious test for holding federal office implies that religious affiliation or lack thereof is not germane to civic life in the U.S.  The ban on Muslims from seven Middle Eastern Countries from entering this country is directly counter to that understanding.  We recognize that past bans on Catholics and Jews was wrong and a stain on our history.  Future generations will, no doubt, view this ban on Muslims in a similar light.


That is not to deny terrorism is a threat to our country, but a religious test for immigrants won’t work and is counterproductive.  Terrorists across the world have cited religion as the motivation for their actions.  However, both religious leaders and laity have denounced them as not consistent with the core teachings of their religion and have worked with authorities to prevent such actions.  The majority of terrorist attacks in this country have been by right wing Christians, yet we don’t have any problem in distinguishing them from the Christian teachings of love, compassion, and peace.  Banning immigration from countries that haven’t produced terrorists who have attacked us while omitting those who have shows that the ban is not about protection but about increasing the level of fear among the populace.


Similarly, the proposed wall along the Mexican border has little to do with keeping out workers who compete with Americans for jobs.  For the last couple of years, more people cross from the US into Mexico than the reverse.  The wild accusations that those entering illegally across the border are mostly drug traffickers, rapists, and murders are designed to raise fear of the “other”.   The isolationism of the 1920’s and 30’s did not serve us well.  Reintroducing it now is our massively interconnected world will lead to even more dire consequences.


The tweets and speeches about the numbers of people attending Trump’s inauguration or the purported three million illegal votes for Clinton are only partly about Trump’s narcissism. It is mostly to continue and deepen the existing rift between those who supported Trump and those who didn’t.  Those divisions prevent us from uniting to protest actions contrary to the core values of democracy.


History has shown when people are afraid, they become more susceptible to promises of safety in return for giving up some of their civil liberties.  Ben Franklin warned, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”


One of the characteristics of religious progressives is inclusivity.  We must counteract the calls to fear and tribalism by using our actions and words to emphasize our common needs and aspirations – good schools for our children, roads that don’t tear up our cars, good health care, security in our old age, jobs that pay a living wage, safety on our streets and in our homes.   In a previous time of national crisis, Lincoln reminded us, “A house divided cannot stand.”  It is our job to stand against division.


For additional actions you can take to oppose the divisiveness of the Trump administration, click here.

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