Flint Pastor Teaches Donald Trump an Important Lesson about Politics in the Pulpit

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Interfaith Alliance president Rabbi Jack Moline issued the following statement in response to Donald Trump’s remarks about Flint, MI pastor Rev. Faith Green Timmons:

If you would like to see a pastor who understands the way a house of worship can host a political candidate, watch Rev. Faith Green Timmons in Flint, MI host Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President.

And if you would like to see a candidate who does not understand the way to speak in a house of worship, watch Mr. Trump in the same video.

I am willing to believe these two had different notions of what to expect from Mr. Trump’s appearance. Pastor Timmons believed he was coming to meet her congregation, see their accomplishments and share his ideas. Mr. Trump seems to have considered this visit an opportunity to contrast himself with his opponent by denigrating her record and abilities. But Pastor Timmons was right, and what Mr. Trump attempted to do was wrong.

The integrity of the pastor’s position is underscored by the less-reported part of her public encounter with the candidate. She interrupted his criticism of his opponent and put him back on track, true. But she also refused to allow the people in the congregation to heckle the speaker. She insisted on civility, even from those in disagreement.

Mr. Trump, unfortunately, described the encounter as a set-up, something planned to bring the pastor media attention. In an interview, he called her a “nervous mess”.

Candidates can and do visit faith communities to share their ideas and discuss issues, but partisan electioneering, unless in a pre-arranged debate format or consecutive appearances by all legitimate candidates, is entirely inappropriate. That’s the law. Pastor Timmons knows it. Mr. Trump should by now too.