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Activist group says SoCal church 'complicit' in anti-Semitism if it hosts troubled Kanye West school

Kanye West
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A group calling on a Southern California church not to rent space to Kanye West for his planned Christian school says doing so would make them “complicit” in the spread of anti-Semitism. 

Launched by Faithful America, which bills itself as “the largest online community of grassroots Christians acting for social justice,” the petition calls on Pastor Ronald Nagin of Cornerstone Christian Church in Northridge to reconsider his reported plans to lease at least a portion of the property for West’s school, Donda Academy.

After garnering over 11,900 signatures as of Friday morning, the petition has the headline “Tell Cornerstone Christian Church there's no place for antisemitism in God's house” and opposes the plan in the wake of what it describes as West’s “embrace of antisemitism and other hateful conspiracy theories.”

Referencing West’s recent interview with Alex Jones in which he said there are “good things” about Adolf Hitler and appeared with controversial Catholic political commentator Nick Fuentes — who's known for making anti-Semitic statements — the petition urged Nagin not to give West a “public platform of any kind … especially not a Christian platform.”

“There is no room in God's house for hatred. Allowing Ye's Donda Academy to operate out of a place of worship would give it and him credibility that at this point they do not deserve,” the petition states. “As your siblings in Christ, we ask you not to host Ye's unaccredited private school on your church grounds.”

Nagin and West held three in-person meetings in November, according to TMZ, which also reported lawyers are working on a draft of the lease.

Nagin did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Since 2019, Faithful America, the group behind the petition, has been led by Episcopal priest and “experienced organizer” the Rev. Nathan Empsall.

According to Empsall’s bio, which uses “he/him” pronouns, the priest previously worked for the Sierra Club and Organizing for America, the community organizing project of the Democratic National Committee launched during the Obama administration.

However, despite Empsall’s role, a statement on the Faithful America website describes the organization as an “independent, ecumenical organization and not affiliated with any church or denomination.”

In 2020, the group also launched a petition opposing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as an associate justice to the U.S. Supreme Court because, according to the petition, she would “take away affordable health care, [LGBT] and immigrant rights, employment protections, and more.”

While Faithful America has voiced its opposition toward West's words, Empsall says that criticism is not meant to suggest they don't believe West is also a brother in Christ.

"Ye says he is a Christian, and we take him at that word just as we would anyone else," Empsall told CP via email. "It is because Ye, Pastor Nagin, and Milo Yiannopoulos are our brothers in Christ that we are able to say to them: 'This is not what following Jesus looks like. Harmful anti-Semitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories are not the love that Jesus wants from us.'"

When asked whether West fits the group's definition of a Christian nationalist, Empsall pointed to a recent interview between West and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes, in which West was quoted as saying, "This is a Christian country and the rules of the country will be based on the Bible."

For Empsall, such statements are "textbook examples" of Christian nationalism, an ideology that he defines as seeking to "remake America as a 'Christian nation' to the detriment of non-Christian citizens."

"While Christian lawmakers and candidates should always be personally guided by our faith and its values of love, grace and the common good, Jesus never said we should use secular law to force the Bible on others," said Empsall. "Theocracy undermines freedom and drives people away from the church."

West, who likened himself to Moses after launching the academy earlier this year, has received criticism in recent weeks for anti-Semitic statements he's made in interviews and on social media.

The rap mogul is now trying to revive Donda Academy — named after the rapper’s late mother — after it abruptly closed in late October.

Donda Academy principal Jason Angell said the decision to close came from West but assured the school would reopen in September 2023 and "begin afresh," according to an email obtained by ESPN.

Ian M. Giatti is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ian.giatti@christianpost.com

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