OBERLIN, Ohio – Ohio Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown are being asked by more than 20 Oberlin-area faith leaders to initiate formal censure proceedings against President Donald Trump following his “photo ops” at religious sites in Washington, D.C. last week.
“These acts of self-glorification on the part of our nation’s leader must be condemned as blasphemous and unconstitutional,” the faith leaders wrote, in part, to the senators.
The men and women who agreed to send the letters to Sens. Portman and Brown are also sending a separate, similar letter to GOP House Rep. Jim Jordan, a fervent supporter of Trump.
“If you and your colleagues in the Senate do not act now to warn the Chief Executive that such actions are not acceptable, he may feel empowered to speak and act with even more authority, as if somehow he has divine blessing,” the letter also says.
The request for censure – simply, a formal statement of disapproval – was first suggested by John Elder, a retired former pastor of The First Church in Oberlin United Church of Christ.
“Although many members of Congress, like clergy across the religious spectrum, have expressed dismay and disgust at what the president did, the seriousness of his actions demands a much stronger response,” Elder said in a news release.
The local religious leaders’ outcry stems from two visits Trump made last week.
President Trump visited St. John’s Episcopal Church, blocks away from the White House, Monday evening after it burned during protests in the nation’s capital following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Trump’s visit, where he did not offer prayers but took photos with a Bible in hand, was widely criticized nationwide and locally in D.C. The Episcopal bishop of Washington, Rev. Mariann Budde, told CBS This Morning Tuesday that the staged visit was “antithetical to everything we as a church stand for.”
One day after his visit to St. John’s, the president and First Lady also visited the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in D.C. They did not give public remarks. Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory slammed the trip to the shrine, calling it “baffling” and “reprehensible.”
Read the full letter sent to Portman and Brown:
We, the undersigned faith leaders of Oberlin, Ohio, and vicinity call on you as our elected members of the United States Senate to join in initiating a formal Senate Censure of President Donald J. Trump for his use of places of worship for “photo ops” on the Monday evening and Tuesday, June 1 and 2, 2020. It is especially reprehensible that, after using tear gas to drive non-violent protesters from Lafayette Square and even from St. John’s Episcopal Church, where comfort was being provided to those of them in need, he would, without any notification to the church officials, use this “Church of the Presidents” as the backdrop for a photo of him holding a Bible, while offering no word from the Scriptures relevant to the circumstances nor even opening what he called “a” (not “his”) Bible. The Diocese’s Bishop expressed “outrage” at his act. The Roman Catholic Archbishop termed President Trump’s visit the next day to the Pope John Paul II Shrine “baffling and reprehensible.” These acts of self-glorification on the part of our nation’s leader must be condemned as blasphemous and unconstitutional. If you and your colleagues in the Senate do not act now to warn the Chief Executive that such actions are not acceptable, he may feel empowered to speak and act with even more authority, as if somehow he has divine blessing. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. We urge you to act now in accordance with that oath.
Signing the letter (in alphabetical order) are:
(Rev.) Fred L. Bell, Mt. Zion Baptist Church
(Rev. Dr.) David E. Cann, United Methodist Church
(Rev. Dr.) Ruth Ann Clark, United Church of Christ
(Rev.) Rollin Conway, United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ
(Rev. Dr.) David Dorsey, Multi-Faith Chaplain
(Rev.) June Hardy Dorsey, Episcopal Church USA
(Rev. Dr.) John D. Elder, Presbyterian Church USA, United Church of Christ
(Rev.) Milton J. Ellis, United Church of Christ
Ann Francis, Oberlin Friends Meeting
(Rev.) Mary E. Grigolia, Unitarian Universalist Association
(Rev.) Mary Hammond, Alliance of Baptists
(Rev.) Steve Hammond, Alliance of Baptists
(Rev.) David Hill, United Church of Christ
(Rev. Dr.) Edward L. Long, Jr., Retired Presbyterian Scholar of Christian Ethics
(Rev. Dr.) A. G. Miller, Oberlin House of the Lord Fellowship
(Rev.) Saranne Nelson-Olin, United Methodist Church
(Rev.) Laurence E. Nevels, Christ Temple Apostolic
(Rev.) Gary Olin, United Methodist Church
(Rev.) Erica Saunders, Peace Community Church
(Rev.) Sarah Shofstall, Christ Church, Oberlin
Rebecca Thompson, Th.M., United Church of Christ
(Rev. Dr.) Ralph Thompson, American Baptist Churches of America
(Rev.) David S. Trask, Sacred Heart Catholic Church