Black Leaders Warn of Clinton Threat to Religious Liberty in Blistering Letter

By Rachel Stoltzfoos Published on October 31, 2016

Black leaders slammed Hillary Clinton’s position toward the poor in a letter delivered to her campaign Monday, saying her economic ideas won’t help black communities in crisis and that her social views pose a threat to their religious liberty.

“Today in the United States more than ten million people of African descent face a crisis of catastrophic proportions,” the letter begins. “Life in our major post-industrial centers can be poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

More than 20 black leaders of the popular Pentecostal-Charismatic wing of the black church signed onto the letter, requesting a meeting with Clinton to discuss their concerns about her views on the economy, abortion and other issues. “We know that you will not make the political mistake of taking the 69,000 black churches in the US for granted,” they write.

First on economics, the signers outline their concern about Clinton’s motivations and policy ideas, all but accusing her of pandering for black votes. Federal programs have often “failed” the poor black communities they’re intended to help, they note. “It is not enough to make obligatory appearances at black churches, we need you to articulate a coherent policy for the black poor.”

The leaders then turn to the subject of abortion. “Abortion in the black community has had a catastrophic impact,” they write, saying they are “very concerned” about Clinton’s position on unborn children, particularly as it relates to religious liberty.

Clinton wants to repeal the part of federal law that bans taxpayer-funded abortions, and believes a woman should have the “right” to abort her unborn baby at any point in her pregnancy for any reason, up until the moment of birth. NARAL Pro-Choice America has called her the “most unapologetic champion” of abortion ever to be nominated for president, and Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards has joined her on the campaign trail.

Citing comments from Clinton regarding abortion that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed,” the signers said they are concerned she represents a threat to their First Amendment rights. “For political leaders to call for changes in citizens’ beliefs is reminiscent of totalitarianism,” the letter states. “In our view, such a proposal constitutes a denial of our religious freedom.”

Harvard-trained sociologist Jacqueline Rivers presented the letter in person to the Clinton Campaign Headquarters Monday, accompanied by some of the others signers, which include black clergy, activists and intellectuals. Rivers has worked among the poor for three decades, and is the Executive Director and Senior Fellow of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies in Boston.

The letter noted their community’s work on behalf of the poor. “Those who would oppose our right to live by the teachings of the Bible set themselves against the interests of the poor,” they write.


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