Baltimore Christian Leaders Release Joint Statement Against Donald Trump: 'You Publicly Slurred Our Beloved City'

Christian leaders based in Baltimore and from across Maryland came together on Monday to call on President Donald Trump to end his "harmful rhetoric" against their city after the U.S. leader branded the municipality a "disgusting, rat, rodent-infested mess."

In a joint statement addressed directly to Trump, religious leaders representing Catholic, Methodist and Lutheran denominations, among others, implored the president to "stop putting people down...in the name of all that is good, healthy and decent."

"We want you to know that many of our churches pray for you by name every Sunday in our worship services," the group wrote.

Yet, to their own "dismay and profound sadness," they said, "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," they said.

Of course, since Trump posted his initial tweet branding Baltimore a "disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess" and calling the city "the worst run and most dangerous anywhere in the United States," the U.S. leader has only continued his attacks on the municipality and the leadership of Maryland Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, who serves as the House Oversight Committee chairman.

In their statement, religious leaders defended their city, accusing detractors of scapegoating its leadership for "longstanding and systemic problems that beset every community."

"It is all too easy to look for scapegoats and fault others for longstanding and systemic problems that beset every community," they said. "Cities, which bring together diverse races, languages, cultures, economic and social conditions, are frequent targets for those who cannot—or will not—see their beauty through the eyes of God and in their inhabitants."

"To their detractors, cities are seen only through the lens of social evils such as poverty, crime, violence and racism. To God, however, cities are seen primarily as vessels of hope, lights of God's reign, and opportunities for living in blessed community."

As Trump railed against Baltimore and, by proxy, its residents, religious leaders said those very same community members were dedicating their time to "teaching children to read, study, play and grow in safe environments...reaching out to high school students in programs that keep them off the streets and expand their opportunities...saving the lives of those addicted by opioids, alcohol and other drugs" and "taking real steps to reduce gun violence and promote social cohesion," among other initiatives.

"Everyday, they are demonstrating their commitment to loving God and their neighbors as themselves," the coalition said, before extending an invitation to Trump to come visit the city he had railed against.

"Our people are showing us all how to live, and how to lead. We invite you to come visit us in Baltimore; see us in action, and see how our communities survive and even thrive in the face of adversity," they said. "We are asking for your help—not tweets of denunciation."

"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," they said. "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," they added. "Enough of the harmful rhetoric that angers and discourages the people and communities you are called to serve—more than you know."

According to Reverend Al Sharpton, who traveled to Baltimore on Monday to support the community and condemn Trump's attacks, the president's rhetoric came after Cummings questioned how migrant children were being treated at the border.

"Elijah Cummings is a respected and well-regarded member of Congress," Sharpton said in a press conference. "And for him to be angry at Mr. Cummings because Mr. Cummings has the moral standard to question how migrant children are being treated at the border is an abomination to me."

"I know Donald Trump, he's not mature enough to take criticism...He's like a child," Sharpton said. "But he has a particular venom for blacks and people of color."

In recent weeks, Trump has faced mounting backlash over racist comments made against political detractors who are also people of color, including telling Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley to "go back" to the "crime-infested places from which they came...Then, come back and show us how it is done."

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to the media about the Mueller report before departing from the White House on July 24, 2019 in Washington, D.C. The U.S. leader is facing backlash over his comments disparaging Baltimore, Maryland. Mark Wilson/Getty