- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2016

On the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a group of black minsters is nailing a missive to the door of the Democratic Party demanding a political reformation on the issues black people care about.

Delivered to Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters on Monday, the blistering letter is signed by more than 25 interdenominational black bishops and pastors, and finds fault with the Democratic presidential nominee’s lackluster commitment to religious liberty, wholesale adoption of the LGBT movement’s agenda and uncompromising support for abortion rights.

The pastors, who say they are comprised only of Democrats and independents, are requesting a meeting with Mrs. Clinton within the first 100 days of her prospective presidency to discuss how the Democratic Party can do a better job of serving one of its most loyal constituencies. They implore Mrs. Clinton to accord them “the same respect that would be conferred on wealthy white donors” by meeting with prominent leaders of the black faith community.

“We request that you set a place and time, during your first 100 days in office, where we may meet to learn more about your position on these issues,” the letter reads. “Then we will be better able to inform our community about what they can reasonably expect from a Clinton administration.”

The letter is signed by several prominent leaders in the black faith community, including Bishops Charles E. Blake, a Los Angeles-based pastor who was appointed by President Obama to a White House Advisory Council on faith in 2009; James W.E. Dixon, senior pastor of the Community of Faith Church in Houston; and Frank Madison Reid III, chair of the social action committee in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The effort was spearheaded by Jacquelyn C. Rivers, executive director of the Seymour Institute on Black Church and Policy Studies, who delivered the letter to the Clinton campaign headquarters.

She said both major political parties have failed to serve the interests of the black community, but the letter is addressed to America’s leading Democratic figure due to the overwhelming numbers of black people who support that party’s candidates.

“We addressed it to her first and foremost because she is one of the two individuals who will be the next president of the United States,” Ms. Rivers said. “And we addressed it to her because so many members of the black community are members of the historically black denomination, 80 percent of the 41 million blacks in the U.S., and because so many of those very same people vote Democratic in most elections.”

The letter details how the black community’s needs have not been met on the issues of education and employment, justice for the unborn, violence and crime, and religious freedom.

“In 2008, Secretary Clinton, you took the position that abortion should be rare, and you emphasized ‘by rare I mean rare.’ But Black babies are dying at terrifying rates,” the letter reads. “How do you justify your unconscionable silence in the face of such destruction of innocent black life? Don’t black lives matter? What policies would you pursue as president to reverse the soaring abortion rates among black women?”

The ministers also take issue with the “well-financed war” being waged by the “gay and lesbian community in the US and abroad on the faith of our ancestors.”

“Furthermore, there are some in your party who seek to criminalize our biblical texts as hate speech,” the letter reads. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr., we do not invite conflict. However, in cases where questions of conscience and religious freedom are at stake, we are prepared, for the sake of the gospel, to suffer the consequences of standing on our convictions.”

The missive also reproaches the Clinton campaign’s “open contempt for religious freedom,” as revealed in emails published by WikiLeaks showing top staffers deriding the Catholic faith.

“The black church has served the poor for over two centuries; our response to Christ’s call to care for all people has strengthened the black community and contributed to civil society in important ways,” the letter reads. “Freedom to do all this must be guaranteed to the Black Church. Those who would oppose our right to live by the teachings of the Bible set themselves against the interests of the poor.”

The letter comes as early turnout indicates black voters are not as enthusiastic about the general election as they were in previous years.

According to an analysis by 538, while Hispanic and white liberals appear to be voting in greater number, early voting in heavily black neighborhoods has slumped dramatically in important swing states compared to 2012 levels.

Ms. Rivers said the reasons outlined in her letter may be playing a role in the lack of enthusiasm black voters feel for Mrs. Clinton.

“Issues that affect black people have not been front and center, and I think that that has a lot to do with the lack of enthusiasm,” she said.

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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