Five hundred religious leaders ― Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and others ― have jointly endorsed the Democratic presidential ticket of Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, according to the multi-faith advocacy group Faith 2020.
The endorsees include some who have never publicly backed a White House candidate, such as Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action. The list also includes clergy from diverse theological positions ― from the progressive Christian pastor Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, long a critic of President Donald Trump, to the evangelical preacher Rev. Rob Schenck, a former militant anti-abortion rights activist who has pledged to vote for a Democrat for the first time in 44 years.
Other prominent backers of Biden and Harris include Imam Talib Shareef of “The Nation’s Mosque” in Washington, D.C., Greg Epstein, a Humanist chaplain, Rev. John McCullough, president of the Christian humanitarian group Church World Service, Bishop Vashti McKenzie of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Rev. Greg Boyle, a Los Angeles Roman Catholic priest.
Lisa Sharon Harper, a Christian writer and founder of the faith-based consulting group Freedom Road, told HuffPost she believes Biden is a “man of true faith” who is guided by Jesus’ commandment to love God and love one’s neighbor. Harper decided to break from her regular practice and explicitly endorse the Biden-Harris ticket because she believes “now is the time for clarity.”
“There is no time to mince words. A second Trump term could deal a mortal blow to our democracy. It would surely deal a mortal blow to the witness of the evangelical faith,” Harper, who identifies as evangelical herself, told HuffPost.
“Faith leaders will be held accountable by God and history for how we used our voices right now,” she added. “Did we bless our neighbor or did we curse them. That will be the question.”
Faith 2020 calls itself a “group of friends and neighbors” who are backing Biden and Harris to “lead us in restoring our nation’s values.” Its bid to create a “big-tent, multi-faith coalition” echoes one of the main messages of outreach that marked last month’s Democratic National Convention.
The endorsement list was spearheaded by the head of Faith 2020′s board, Rev. Fred Davie, the executive vice president of New York’s Union Seminary, according to the Religion News Service.
The list of supporters, first published with about 350 names last Thursday before swelling in size, comes as the Biden campaign expands its outreach to communities of faith. The former vice president’s team hired an evangelical Christian and former Republican, Josh Dickson, as its national faith engagement director in July. Religious voters were explicitly courted during the party’s convention that sought to highlight Biden’s faith as a Roman Catholic. Biden’s campaign has also been targeting specific groups of faith voters in swing states, including Latino evangelicals, Catholics, Hindus and young people of faith.
“For too long the Republican Party has hijacked faith,” Faith 2020′s executive director Rev. Adam Nicholas Phillips told HuffPost in an email. “It’s outrageous to think that Donald Trump would be ‘the values candidate’ in 2020, especially, as he consistently stokes racial division and lets neighbors near and far lose loved ones and livelihoods amidst the pandemic.”
Phillips, a progressive evangelical pastor from Portland, Oregon, also pointed to the scandals surrounding Trump’s “so-called faith supporters” ― such as Liberty University’s ex-president Jerry Falwell, Jr., who was pushed out of his post after a sex scandal, Pastor John MacArthur, whose church has been flouting COVID-19 regulations, and the conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who has helped to spread the patently false QAnon conspiracy theory.
“These guys are outliers, not representative of faithful Americans,” Phillips said.
Phillips said he believes Biden and Harris are the “morally serious candidates” that faith-motivated voters are looking for, especially on issues such as systemic racism. He also said he believes religious voters across party lines are deeply committed to “welcoming the stranger,” a goal that in his view Trump’s “cruel” policies toward migrant children and refugees has harmed.
“Most faithful Americans are increasingly inclusive and forward-looking ― looking for justice and healing, not tired old toxic ways,” Phillips said.