More than 100 New Jersey faith leaders urged the state’s congressional delegation on Monday to censure President Trump for blaming “both sides” for deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.
A wide range of spiritual leaders signed a letter supporting House Resolution 496, which condemns Trump for his response to the racial violence that left one woman dead and scores injured. The resolution was introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12).
The letter was specifically sent to New Jersey congressmen who have not co-sponsored the resolution: Reps. Frank LoBiondo (R-2), Tom MacArthur (R-3), Chris Smith (R-4), Leonard Lance (R-7), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11) and Josh Gottheimer (D-5). The letter urged the delegation to sponsor the resolution and to forcefully condemn Trump’s remarks.
Matt Fried, a Gottheimer spokesman, said Tuesday that Gottheimer had already asked to cosponsor to the resolution before the letter was sent and will be added as a sponsor during the next pro forma congressional session.
“What more does President Trump need to say before you will act?” the letter said. “Congress must make it clear that the president does not speak for the American government with regard to Charlottesville.”
More than 110 members of Congress have already signed onto the resolution, according to the letter. But House Speaker Paul Ryan, who decides which bills get posted for a vote in Congress, has already said he won’t support a resolution censuring Trump, calling the measure “counterproductive.”
“If we descend this issue into some partisan hack-fest, into some bickering against each other and demean it down into some political food fight, what good does that do to unify this country?” Ryan said during a town hall hosted by CNN.
The letter sent to the New Jersey congressional delegation was signed by Jewish, Muslim, Baptist, AME, Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical and other faith-based leaders from across the state.
“To remain silent after bearing witness to Neo Nazis chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘Blood and Soil’ on national television is to be complicit to an attack on humanity,” said Rev. Gregory J. Jackson, a senior pastor at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack. “Our morality dictates that we speak and speak loudly.”
New Jersey political leaders from both parties had pointed words earlier this month in response to the racial violence and Trump’s remarks. Some Republicans, such as Lance, specifically called out Trump, tweeting: “Mr. President there is only one side: AGAINST white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites & the KKK. They have no place in America or GOP.”
But other Republicans, such as MacArthur, condemned white supremacists and neo-Nazis but didn’t directly criticize the president. “I do not believe that good people participate in white power rallies. I do not believe that good people hold racist beliefs,” MacArthur said in a statement.
The letter was sent as roughly 1,000 religious leaders from various faiths rallied in Washington D.C. on Monday to highlight to oppose Trump’s agenda, according to a news release about the letter. Monday was also the 54th anniversary of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
“The clarion call of ‘Never Again’ must be sounded every time hatred manifests itself,” said Rabbi Marc Kline of the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls. “This call should especially be voiced – loud and clear – when hatred marches through American streets. We must join together to shine a light on evil whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head.”
Update (Aug. 29): After this story was published, a Gottheimer spokesman said the congressman had already asked to cosponsor the resolution to censure Trump. This story has been updated to add the spokesman’s statement.