Lead Story West Edition

Faith leaders support, defend Maxine Waters

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters has been at the forefront of the anti-Donald Trump movement almost from the time that Trump was sworn in as this nation’s 45th president in January 2017.

In return, the crusading Democrat has become the target of vile criticism from Trump and his followers to such an extent that she recently canceled two out-of-state appearances because of death threats made against her.

In response, local religious leaders have picked up the shield for Waters.

On July 2, just across the street from Waters’ South Los Angeles office, a coalition of ministers and pastors, held a press conference to condemn the hateful rhetoric aimed at Waters and to speak out against a pointed agenda they feel is specifically targeted at communities of color.

“Our democracy is under attack and we’re on the verge of a constitutional crisis under the Trump administration,” Macedonia Baptist Church Senior Pastor Shane B. Scott said. “This administration has created an atmosphere of divisiveness to satisfy the base, and not represent all people in the United States of America. Immigrant children have been separated from their families at the borders. Trump’s travel ban is rooted in anti-Muslim prejudices, which discriminates against religious freedoms and lawmakers ignore implementing reasonable gun laws to stop mass shootings in our most sacred public places.

“This is not who America is supposed to be,” Scott added. “We are better than this. Congresswoman Maxine Waters is courageously raising her voice and leading the fight in the Democratic Party to maintain the moral fiber of this country. She is a true patriot, and she should be celebrated as such. She has been an exemplary public servant for all the people and any attempts to disrespect, discredit or assassinate her character are unwelcomed and unwarranted.”

Scott led the contingent of clergy who showed up to throw their support behind Waters, who was not present during the ceremony.

Waters, a vocal critic of President Trump and his immigration policy of having children separated from their parents as they await deportation back to their homeland, had recently canceled appearances in Texas and Alabama because of perceived death threats.

The Trump administration’s policy has sparked outrage domestically as well as abroad, including drawing a rebuke from Waters.

“When one hears disturbing news reports that children are being ripped out of the arms of their parents only to be held in detention centers where they are locked in cages, are forced to sleep on cement floors, and are only allowed to go outdoors for limited periods of time, one would think that those reports are describing conditions under the rule of a callous dictator — not the president of the United States,” Waters said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Donald Trump and his racist, Jim Crow-era throwback Jeff Sessions have unleashed the full power of the executive branch to target, terrorize and traumatize children and families — many of whom are seeking refuge from the very type of mistreatment in which they are now confronted with upon arrival to the greatest democracy in the world. This is a national disgrace.”

Bishop Noel Jones, senior pastor at the City of Refuge, a church in Gardena where Waters often visits, said that type of policy has no place in America.

“We have become silent from our evangelical point of view and voicing the fact that we have stood against all of the principles of Christianity to allow people of color — black and brown — to have their children separated,” Jones said. “The first thing that comes to mind is we’re going back to slavery, where people can separate families with no conscious, where men and women were taken from their homes, simply because of money, where children are separated from their families, and we keep our mouths quiet.

The Rev. Kelvin Sauls of Holman United Methodist Church speaks at a July 2 press conference in support of Rep. Maxine Waters. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

“We need to open our mouths and declare that this is not acceptable for the American way, and that we are not closing our opportunities to people who need opportunities, people who are running from all of the oppression they have in their nations. We don’t want that kind of oppression to come back into our country.”

Rev. L.A. Kessee, senior pastor of Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles, was another clergy member who spoke.

“We, as Baptist ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, support Congresswoman Maxine Waters,” Kessee said. “We are calling for her protection from threats of bodily harm. She should be protected. … I believe she should be protected not at her own expense, but she ought to be protected by the government that she serves. She should be protected by the police. She should not be going through threats to her personhood.”

Last month, Waters urged people opposed to the administration’s policies to confront cabinet members. At a rally at the Westwood Federal Building, she alluded to the heckling of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. when she was confronted by protesters over family separations at the border, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders being asked to leave a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant by its owner because of her work defending Trump and his policies.

“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” she said in remarks posted on YouTube. “And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you
create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.

“We’ve got to get the children connected to their parents,” Waters added. “Mr. President, we will see you every day, every hour of the day, everywhere that we are to let you know you cannot get away with this.”

Waters appeared on a cable network later that day to reiterate her remarks, and exclaimed “no sympath” for members of the Trump administration.

The president then sent a tweet that said: “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”