"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"

By Adam Carlson
August 01, 2019 10:14 AM
President Donald Trump at the Washington National Cathedral
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty

The top leaders of the Washington National Cathedral — a “national house of prayer” that has been the site of four presidential funerals — this week issued a withering condemnation of President Donald Trump‘s inflammatory and, at times, racist rhetoric.

With repeated references to the mid-century hysteria around communism, in which Sen. Joseph McCarthy stoked vitriol and suspicion in public discourse, three top cathedral officials said President Trump was doing much the same now.

“We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God,” reads the Tuesday statement, signed by the Revs. Mariann Budde, Randolph Hollerith and Kelly Douglas. “We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society.”

The trio asked, “As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral — the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance — we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?”

Declaring “the time for silence is over,” the statement continues: “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.”

National Cathedral officials have criticized the president before, according to the Associated Press, and it “has a history of liberal political stances.”

Still, the church has stood as a largely nondenominational and nonpartisan gathering place. Former President George H. W. Bush‘s funeral was held there in November, with President Trump in attendance. He and First Lady Melania Trump also attended Christmas Eve services there last year.

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President Donald Trump
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

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Trump, who built his political profile in part on a zeal for personal feuds with anyone he perceived as a rival or critic, has in recent weeks stoked several controversies over his insults about lawmakers of color.

Using a well-worn racist attack last month, he told four progressive congresswomen to “go back” to their countries of origin, though all four are Americans.

Since last weekend, he has also assailed Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, a prominent critic of his in the House. Trump called Cummings’ Baltimore-area district a “rat and rodent infested” place in which “no human being would want to live.”

Leading Democrats denounced the extremity of his comments and Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan, a Republican, called them “outrageous.”

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“There is nothing racist in stating plainly what most people already know, that Elijah Cummings has done a terrible job for the people of his district, and of Baltimore itself,” Trump tweeted this week. “Dems always play the race card when they are unable to win with facts. Shame!”

“I’m the least racist person there is anywhere in the world,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

National Cathedral officials said otherwise.

“Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous,” they said in their Tuesday statement, adding, “When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human ‘infestation’ in America.”

Cathedral officials noted that they prayed and continued to pray for the Trump administration to use “wisdom and grace,” but “we must say that this will not be tolerated.”

A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement.

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