A group of faith leaders gathered in Santa Monica on Wednesday to denounce the President’s use of religion as a prop and to support efforts to end racism. Photos by Matthew Hall.

Clergy and faith leaders from several spiritual communities gathered at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church Wednesday to praise the social justice movement in America and condemn President Trump’s use of an Episcopal church as a photo opportunity.

“The President’s attempt to hijack the spiritual richness of America cannot go unanswered. We, clergy and lay leaders of many faiths in the Los Angeles region, gather together to demonstrate what a true spiritual/religious response to racial injustice looks like, provide some spiritual solace and highlight the values that call us to do all we can to fight racism,” said Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom in Santa Monica, who organized the event.

Nirinjan Khalsa, Director of the California Sikh Council called George Floyd a martyr and said he has become a symbol of injustice and that protesters should continue with their message that all people must be treated with love and respect.

“Don’t let them drown out the voices of change in an ocean of violence and destruction that helps to maintain the system as it is and not bring about the changes we desperately need,” he said. “Speak out, shout out, march and demonstrate so that all can hear and we join you in the call for change.”

Art Cribbs is the pastor of Los Angeles Filipino-American United Church of Christ and he recounted memories of watching racial unrest in the city since 1965. Cribbs said the bible had been befouled by the president who used violence to clear innocent people from the area. However he also praised the modern prevalence of cell phones to bring new light to the persistent racism.

“This instrument, I am thankful for this instrument, that captured the events that took the life of George Floyd,” Cribbs said while holding a phone. “This became an instrument to inform. This became an instrument to remind us again that life is not sacred for those who would snuff it, even from a person who had not been convicted, had not been charged but happened to be black, American, and forced to the ground.”

Cribbs said the sickness of violence, racism and murder were not what America should be but were sadly the current definition of America.

Dr. Lo Sprague, President of the Guibord Center said the deaths of black citizens was an affront to God.

“Black lives don’t just matter, Black lives are sacred,” she said. “The blood running in our streets is sacred, God is in it. The black lives snuffed out in daylight in front of us and each of the countless others stolen in the shadows, either by cruel intent or by callous indifference is sacred. God is in each and every one of them. Black lives are sacred.”

Comess-Daniels said Santa Monica was known as a bastion of liberalism when he arrived in the city 30 years ago and while there was a time when those beliefs were in retreat, he thinks residents have come back to their roots and he said a new generation of activists are learning lessons that will be necessary to keep the movement going.

“This is going to be a long struggle to undo some of this vicious racism that is so deep in the marrow of who we are as a society,” he said.

The event was supported by The Santa Monica Area Interfaith Council, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice – Los Angeles (CLUE-LA) and The Guibord Center – Turning Religion Inside Out.

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...

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