By Ed Pilkington
February 21, 2016
Donald Trump, still feeling the aftershocks of his spat with Pope Francis who suggested he was “not a Christian” for proposing a border wall with Mexico, now faces the wrath of his own Presbyterian church leadership who say his hardline views on immigration are out of line with its teachings.
Gradye Parsons, the most senior elected official of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to which Trump was baptized as a child, said that the Bible is clear: followers of the faith have to care for the needy. “Donald Trump’s views are not in keeping with the policies adopted by our church by deliberative process,” he said.
In an interview with the Guardian, Parsons said that the Presbyterian church had voted several times since the 1990s in its national general assemblies in favor of comprehensive immigration reform that would grant a route to legal status for the 11 million undocumented people currently living in the US. “Our official policy is to encourage immigration reform.”
He added that the founding narrative of Christianity contained a commitment to those most in need – widows, orphans, the oppressed and the alien. “It is clear that God wants us to act on behalf of the stranger. Jesus himself and his parents had to flee the country for their lives when he was born – there are lots of parallels.”
Trump’s latest kerfuffle with the religious community erupted on Thursday when the pope made a clear reference to the presidential candidate at the end of his papal tour of Mexico. The pontiff said that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian”.
On Friday the Vatican back-tracked, saying that the comments had not been intended as a personal attack. Trump himself also made soothing noises, praising the pope’s latest remarks as “beautiful”.
Pope Francis says that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is ‘not Christian’due to his plans for a wall between the US and Mexico to stop illegal immigrants entering America.
But the contretemps has reopened questions about the Republican’s standing in the eyes of the religious community. The Republican primary race, in which Trump continues to hold favorable poll ratings compared with nearest rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, moves next to the deep south where evangelical conservatives wield considerable sway.
Trump was confirmed as a child at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens, and has always self-associated as a Presbyterian. He says he now worships at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, part of the Reformed Church in American denomination.
Parsons, who is known as the “stated clerk” or chief executive of the 1.6 million-strong Presbyterian Church in the US, said he would stop short of the pope’s suggestion that Trump’s views on immigration rendered him “not a Christian”. But he did say that “Biblical mandates are important – how people care for the oppressed and the alien acts as a marker of whether they are following their faith.”
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