The Slatest

National Cathedral Leaders Condemn Trump’s Racism, Question Americans’ Silence in the Face of It

People gather in front of the Washington National Cathedral.
People gather in front of the Washington National Cathedral on May 24.
Eva Hambach/Getty Images

Religious leaders at the Washington National Cathedral issued a rare public statement Tuesday in response to President Donald Trump’s divisive, racist taunts and rhetoric, calling on Americans to hold him—and all their leaders—more accountable for their words. “Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous,” the statement reads. “As faith leaders who serve at Washington National Cathedral—the sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance—we feel compelled to ask: After two years of President Trump’s words and actions, when will Americans have enough?”

The statement comes as the president of the United States has launched a series of racist verbal attacks against congresspeople of color and engaged, more generally, in a campaign striking at the country’s worst racial instincts. “We have come to accept a level of insult and abuse in political discourse that violates each person’s sacred identity as a child of God. We have come to accept as normal a steady stream of language and accusations coming from the highest office in the land that plays to racist elements in society,” the Episcopalian leaders wrote. “This week, President Trump crossed another threshold. Not only did he insult a leader in the fight for racial justice and equality for all persons; not only did he savage the nations from which immigrants to this country have come; but now he has condemned the residents of an entire American city. Where will he go from here?”

The statement made clear that Trump’s language was racist and dangerous, providing cover and comfort for white supremacists.

These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.

The statement was issued by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral; and the Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas, canon theologian of Washington National Cathedral, and reads as a call to action. The statement questioned not just the speech of the country’s leaders, but the silence of its citizens. “When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough?” the statement reads. “The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.”