The Ecumenical Leaders’ Group of Maryland, which is made up of senior leaders from a variety of Christian denominations ranging from Roman Catholic to Christian Science, rebuked President Donald Trump in an open letter Monday for slurring the City of Baltimore.
“Recently, much to our dismay and profound sadness, you publicly slurred our beloved City of Baltimore in a tweet. We will not dignify the slur by repeating it. It was horrible, demeaning and beneath the dignity of a political leader who should be encouraging us all to strive and work for a more civil, just and compassionate society,” the leaders wrote in the letter.
In a series of tweets about urban decay in Baltimore and federal funding starting Saturday, Trump has lashed out at the city and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, calling his district which covers a large portion of Baltimore, a “dangerous…disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
“Rep, Elijah Cummings has been a brutal bully, shouting and screaming at the great men & women of Border Patrol about conditions at the Southern Border, when actually his Baltimore district is FAR WORSE and more dangerous. His district is considered the Worst in the USA,” Trump first tweeted on Saturday.
“As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place,” he added.
Trump followed that tweet with another that said in part, speaking of Cummings' district, "No human being would want to live there."
He further called Cummings “racist” on Sunday while questioning why years of federal funding hasn’t been sufficient to alleviate Baltimore’s condition. On Monday, he criticized left-leaning civil rights activist Al Sharpton as a "con man" as he traveled to Baltimore to defend the city from Trump’s criticism.
Prior to issuing their rebuke of the president, the church leaders noted that they prayed for him “every Sunday” but wanted him to use his platform more wisely.
“Today, more than ever, we need visionary leaders like Jeremiah. In an open society of honest disagreements and political differences, it’s especially imperative that leaders do not insult, demean, dehumanize and divide people and communities,” the church leaders argued.
“Good leaders lift up, call people together, and bring out the best in them. Slamming individuals and whole communities is not leadership; it’s regression – for everybody. Leaders lead. Mr. President, as religious leaders we implore you: in the name of all that is good, healthy and decent, stop putting people down. Enough of the harmful rhetoric that angers and discourages the people and communities you are called to serve – more than you know,” they ended.
While President Trump’s comments have sparked strong rebuke from liberals, it was recently noted by Trump supporters that in 2015, Democrat presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders made similar comments about Baltimore after a visit to the city in the aftermath of the death Freddie Gray – a 25-year-old black man who died after falling into a coma while in police custody. Sanders described Baltimore as a "Third World country" and compared the city's poorest neighborhoods to North Korea.
"Anyone who took the walk that we took around this neighborhood would not think you’re in a wealthy nation," Sanders said, according to the Baltimore Sun. "You would think that you were in a Third World country."
He continued: “Today what we're talking about is a community in which half of the people don't have jobs. We're talking about a community in which there are hundreds of buildings that are uninhabitable."