Democratic nominee Joe Biden has received the endorsement of an interfaith collective of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh spiritual leaders ahead of November’s US election, with the group calling on the candidate to “restore the soul of this nation”.
Faith 2020 said America had lost its “moral clarity” under Donald Trump and that its 350 members are “seeking change”.
“Faith 2020 is raising awareness, mobilising faith-rooted voters to get out the vote and doing our part to restore the soul of the nation,” the coalition wrote on its website. “We’re a group of progressives, independents and conservatives seeking change.”
Its roster include the likes of Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran minister who founded the LGBT+-friendly House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, and Robert W Lee IV, a descendant of the Confederate general whose monuments became a focal point for Black Lives Matter demonstrators this summer during the cultural reckoning that followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.
Mr Lee IV responded to the controversy surrounding his famous ancestor by stepping down as pastor of a North Carolina church and expressing his support for the racial justice movement.
For her part, Ms Bolz-Weber told Religious News she had never publicly backed a political candidate before but felt compelled to now in opposition to President Trump.
“I believe in the true spirit of Christianity so strongly that I will not abandon the faith to those who use it as a camouflage for self-interest and small-mindedness,” she said. “In the same way, I believe the spirit of what America has always said it is about, and will not abandon this country to those who support policies that are based in small-mindedness and self-interest.”
“I think progressive Christianity is a sleeping giant,” she added.
Mr Trump has been seeking to shore up the support of conservative Christians in recent months by encouraging an end to strict social distancing measures in southern states to allow congregations to return to church despite the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus, which has now passed 6m infections in the US and killed more than 183,000 people.
Speaking at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on 18 August, the president also appeared to admit that his administration had relocated the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “for the evangelicals” at home, rather than the locals.
“You know it’s amazing… the evangelicals are more excited about that than Jewish people. That’s really right, it’s incredible,” Mr Trump remarked.
The president has further attempted to suggest that Mr Biden is not sincere in his own religious faith.
“He’s against the Bible, essentially against religion. But against the Bible and he’s against the Second Amendment,” Mr Trump told veteran Fox News interviewer Geraldo Rivera earlier this month.
That attack drew an angry response from Mr Biden’s campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.
“Joe Biden’s faith is at the core of who he is; he’s lived it with dignity his entire life, and it’s been a source of strength and comfort in times of extreme hardship,” Mr Bates said.
“Donald Trump is the only president in our history to have tear-gassed peaceful Americans and thrown a priest out of her church just so he could profane it – and a Bible – for his own cynical optics as he sought to tear our nation apart at a moment of crisis and pain. And this comes just one day after Trump’s campaign abused a photo of Joe Biden praying in church to demean him, in one of the starkest expressions of weakness throughout this whole campaign.”
Many US Christians have expressed their disquiet about the incident alluded to by Mr Bates, which took place on 1 June and saw tear-gas pellets fired to disperse Black Lives Matter activists gathering in Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, to enable the president to walk from the White House to St John’s Church to pose for press photographs holding aloft a Bible, albeit not his own copy and upside down.