Several high-profile evangelical leaders have signed a joint letter asking President Donald Trump to condemn the alt-right movement as "racist, evil, and antithetical to a well-ordered, peaceful society."
CNN reported that the letter was privately circulated among a coalition of pastors following the deadly protest in Charlottesville, Virginia last month that left one woman dead.
The signers noted Trump's efforts to denounce white supremacists, but they are calling on the president to take further steps in condemning the alt-right "by name." Trump had received widespread criticism for his remarks during an August news conference, in which he suggested that there were "some very fine people" among the alt-right protesters in Charlottesville.
"Now, we respectfully call upon you to respond to the resolution by speaking out against the alt-right movement. This movement has escaped your disapproval. We believe it is important for this movement to be addressed, for at its core it is a white identity movement and the majority of its members are white nationalists or white supremacists," the letter reads.
The letter, drafted by Southern Baptists Rev. Dwight McKissic and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Dean Keith S. Whitfield, came after the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted in June to explicitly condemn the alt-right, after initially rejecting the resolution. The rejection sparked an outcry among pastors who then went on force to vote on the resolution, which ultimately passed.
"Our country desperately needs unifying leadership again. We need you, President Trump, to lead us in such an effort. America needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves," the letter continued.
The letter also calls on churches to unite "for the sake of the nation and the Kingdom of God," and cites comments from the leaders of two Baptist conventions to demonstrate Christian unity in response to bigotry and racial injustice. It quotes SBC President Steve Gaines and National Baptist Convention USA President Jerry Young in their denunciation of the alt-right movement.
Signatories of the letter include former SBC President Rev. Fred Luter; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC); Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Gaines had confirmed with The Christian Post, through his director of communications, Jim Barnwell, that he endorsed the letter and that he is part of the coalition asking the president to denounce white supremacists.
Other signatories of the letter include Dallas pastor Tony Evans; Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College; and Jemar Tisby, president of the Reformed African American Network.