While many voters in Christian circles were heartened by President Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate the “Mexico City policy” earlier this week, barring U.S. money from funding abortions internationally, there is still much unease about the new administration.
In order to address the frustration and anger, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, along with Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Yitzchok Adlerstein, proposed earlier this month the formation of a White House Commission on National Healing.
In a Fox News op-ed about the proposed commission, which Rodriguez said should be helmed by Vice President Mike Pence, the religious leaders suggested Trump should name to the panel people “who are trusted in large but different swaths of ideological territory.”
The commission will serve as a sounding board for those with grievances; as a portal to call out the social media giants who have done too little to degrade the marketing of hate mongers; and as an echo chamber for a multitude of under-appreciated local initiatives of citizens whose daily actions should make them true American heroes.
If the panel is established, it will focus on collecting the myriad viewpoints of religious leaders, aiding the president in determining how to best address two of the campaign’s most hot-button issues — race relations and immigration reform — and helping him steer clear of the “bitterly divisive political, racial, and religious rhetoric that has torn our national unity to shreds.”
While the commission has not yet been green-lighted by the Trump administration, NHCLC Executive Vice President Tony Suarez told TheBlaze it is in the works and suggested that “some of the healing has already begun.”
Shortly after Trump won the presidency, Suarez said a phone call was arranged with Hispanic Christian leaders from multiple denominations where they discussed former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which defers the deportation of some illegal immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors, and the DREAM Act, which allows for a path to permanent residency for illegal immigrants, along with criminal justice reform and steps toward racial reconciliation.
“A document from that phone call — you know, everything we talked about was noted and it was hand delivered to Mr. Trump within two hours of that call being done,” Suarez said. “Within four hours of the call, though he said he’s going to repeal Obama’s executive action, he said, ‘I’m gonna help the DREAMers.'”
“To our Hispanic community,” the pastor continued, “that really resonated. … It showed a tone of openness, that we’re gonna be able to get something done.”
While critics viewed Trump’s statements about immigration during the campaign as harsh, including his calls for a wall along the U.S.’s southern border that would be funded by Mexico and his call this week for a “major investigation” into “millions” of illegal votes in the election, Suarez said he has not personally seen the president “stirring up racial tensions in what he’s saying.”
“I really sense the Trump administration is very open to the healing and to working with people,” Suarez said. “But it requires people that even have a difference of opinion with Trump to be willing to go and sit at that table.”
This is position is a shift for Suarez, who last fall supported Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for president and was highly critical of Trump. “I said [Trump’s] campaign needed to end like his reality show — someone needed to tell him he’s fired,” the pastor said.
But in the few months he’s been on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, Suarez told TheBlaze that he has “gained respect” for the new president.
As far as the commission goes, Suarez said it’s not just about having a seat at the table. He said Christian leaders must maintain what he called “prophetic integrity.”
“You can’t sacrifice on the alter of political expediency,” he said. “With all the good we’ve seen from the campaign, we can’t allow the good to cause us to sacrifice something else — another moral truth that we want to stand on, and so we have to have the prophetic integrity to call him out when he’s wrong and be able to say, ‘No, you can’t go there.'”
“It requires integrity and it requires courage,” he added.