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Trump's State of the Union: Don't pass up this chance for repentance

Trump's State of the Union: Don't pass up this chance for repentance
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On Tuesday, January 30th, President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden holds massive cash advantage over Trump ahead of Election Day Tax records show Trump maintains a Chinese bank account: NYT Trump plays video of Biden, Harris talking about fracking at Pennsylvania rally MORE will stand before Congress and the American public and offer his vision for the nation in his State of the Union address. In my tradition, we would say that he needs to repent.

Because of his deliberate policy choices, nearly 800,000 young immigrants working, studying and raising families in our communities face the threat of deportation. Because of his inability to compromise, millions of children and pregnant women nearly lost their access to affordable healthcare. Because his Department of Justice turns a deaf ear to the cries of communities of color, prisoners continue to be unjustly incarcerated and voting rights are restricted for millions. The thousands of faith leaders I work with will listen carefully to see if he prioritizes justice for all of these Americans or continues to stand only for the wealthiest and most powerful few.

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As a pastor, I pray that President Trump focuses his speech on the issues that already have broad support and unite Americans across racial, religious and socioeconomic ties. The president, who has historically low approval ratings, must chart a new course during his State of the Union by publicly repenting and seeking to make amends in the following ways:

 

Immigration

The president should stop deporting our immigrant neighbors and heed the Bible’s call  to welcome migrants and refugees. Religious leaders around the country have opened their congregations’ doors to immigrants facing the imminent threat of deportation, going so far as physically sheltering people who would be torn away from their loved ones if not for the protection of sanctuary.

To answer the moral and Biblical call to treat all immigrants with dignity and respect, we need a clean Dream Act and restoration of Temporary Protected Status for people fleeing life-threatening conditions in their home countries. Neither of these morally unassailable policies ought to be held hostage to a boondoggle of a border wall or the dismantling of our legal immigration system’s emphasis on family unity. In short, the president needs to stop trying to shut the door on immigrant families seeking safety and opportunity in our country.

Criminal Justice

There is broad support for substantial reform of our biased and discriminatory criminal justice system so that we incarcerate fewer people and provide avenues for re-entry that help formerly incarcerated people build healthy lives outside of prison walls.

With backing from supporters as wide ranging as the conservative Koch brothers and the progressive Center for American Progress, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA) is a model of bipartisan problem-solving. It would reduce racial disparities in sentencing, cut mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of low-level drug offenses and give those currently in prison access to programs that will help them re-enter our communities. President Trump should encourage Congress to move this bill forward. Our criminal justice system disproportionately punishes black and brown families, yet our faith traditions call us to treat everyone with dignity and prevent exploitation.

Voting Rights

Equal access to the voting booth for all Americans is the cornerstone of our democracy.  Yet 50 years after Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, racism continues to undermine this fundamental right. To restore the integrity of our elections and honor those who sacrificed and bled during the civil rights movement, President Trump should call on Congress to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which revives Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by requiring states with a recent history of discrimination to get approval for changes to their voting laws. The right to vote is a matter of human dignity. President Trump should show the world that he represents all Americans not just the white and wealthy ones.

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Certainly there are many important misdeeds to redress in this administration in addition to the ones listed. President Trump’s record on many things including cabinet appointments, climate change, LGBTQ issues and health care have been the subjects of much reproach.

But, as a pastor, I believe that repentance is possible. President Trump has hurt many Americans through misguided policies and intentional division over the past year, but we all have the capacity to change.

By publicly committing to these common-sense solutions, the president can commit himself to building a more just and humane society and begin the long journey toward serving Americans beyond his angry and shrinking base of support.

Jennifer Butler is the CEO of Faith in Public Life and former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships. Follow her on Twitter @JenButlerFPL.