Photo: Jill Harms

On Third Anniversary Of White Supremacist Violence In Charlottesville, Hundreds Of Interfaith Clergy Urge Accountability & Justice

Faith Leaders from Across U.S. Release Statement Supporting IFA Plaintiffs in Landmark Lawsuit Against Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists Responsible for Charlottesville Violence

 Clergy: This is not a theoretical exercise for us. Our houses of worship and congregants are on the front lines of white supremacist terror.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Today, hundreds of interfaith clergy from across the country released a statement supporting Integrity First for America’s Charlottesville plaintiffs as they put the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the August 2017 violence on trial this fall. As Charlottesville marks the three-year anniversary of the violence, nearly 550 leaders of diverse faiths, including the leaders of major denominations and institutions, are urging accountability and justice — critical to faith communities that are too often on the front lines of white supremacist terror.

“We have an obligation to directly confront this violent hate — and to hold those responsible to account. We must do so not only because rising extremist violence is an assault on our communities’ rights and safety. We must do so because as faith leaders, we know that it is morally repugnant, an attack on our most fundamental human dignity,” the clergy write.

“We must also be very clear: this is not a theoretical exercise for us. Our houses of worship and congregants are on the front lines of white supremacist terror. This fight is critical to the existential safety and wellbeing of our own communities…. As faith leaders, it is our moral imperative that we join in this holy work. Together, we can make it clear: violence and hate have no place here.”

IFA’s lawsuit — Sines v. Kessler — is the only current legal effort to take on the broad leadership of the violent white supremacist movement. The court has rejected the defendants’ efforts to block the case and trial is scheduled for October 2020 in federal court in Charlottesville.

The suit details a meticulously planned conspiracy that led to the weekend of bloodshed in August 2017. As detailed in the complaint, the defendants utilized Discord and other social media sites to plan the violence for months in advance — down to the details of which weapons to bring and whether they could claim self-defense if they hit protesters with cars. To learn more about IFA's lawsuit, click here.

The full clergy statement with signatories is available on IFA’s website here. The statement reads in full:

In recent years, we have witnessed a horrific cycle of white supremacist violence. 

Charleston, Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Poway, El Paso. On and on it goes. 

The racism, antisemitism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and other forms of hate fueling this violent cycle are part of the broader systems of white supremacy that have long poisoned this country. This summer we are beginning to have a much-needed public reckoning.

We have an obligation to directly confront this violent hate — and to hold those responsible to account.

We must do so not only because rising extremist violence is an assault on our communities’ rights and safety. We must do so because as faith leaders, we know that it is morally repugnant, an attack on our most fundamental human dignity. We are obligated to raise our voices — because we believe in God’s love, because we believe that every human being has intrinsic worth, because this bigotry is an assault on our core religious ideas of compassion and justice, and on our vision of the beloved community. 

We sign this letter as faith leaders from many traditions, united in our belief that human diversity is a Divine blessing; that harming people because of the color of their skin or who they love or how they believe is a betrayal of God’s presence in the universe; and that to harm God’s creation is the desecration of God’s name.

We must also be very clear: this is not a theoretical exercise for us. Our houses of worship and congregants are on the front lines of white supremacist terror. This fight is critical to the existential safety and wellbeing of our own communities.

So today, as we mark the third anniversary of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA, we as clergy — representing diverse communities of faith from across this country — are called to use our pulpits and our platforms to support the brave individuals who are standing up to violent hate. 

Together, we lift up our voices behind Integrity First for America and the plaintiffs in their landmark lawsuit, Sines v. Kessler, as they take the leaders of the violent white supremacist movement to court and seek to repudiate violent hate.

What happened in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017 makes clear that there are not two sides to this story.  The lawsuit details how the violence was no accident, but rather a deliberately planned attack — targeting people based on their race, religion, and willingness to stand up for others’ rights.

This lawsuit is already having a tangible impact on these racist leaders and hate groups. And when we win in court, we will send the strongest possible message to others who are hoping to do the same: you will be held to account and face clear consequences for your actions.

There is so much that must be done in the fight for justice, dignity, and equality. We believe Integrity First for America’s lawsuit provides a critical opportunity for concrete action - with impacts that will be felt well beyond Charlottesville.

As faith leaders, it is our moral imperative that we join in this holy work.

Together, we can make it clear: violence and hate have no place here.

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Integrity First for America (IFA) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization dedicated to holding those accountable who threaten longstanding principles of our democracy—including our country's commitment to civil rights and equal justice. IFA is backing the landmark federal lawsuit against the two dozen neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and hate groups responsible for the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville. Trial is scheduled for October 2020. To learn more about the case, click here.

10,000 Voices for Charlottesville

Our lawsuit against the Nazis and white supremacists who attacked Charlottesville is headed to trial — and our plaintiffs need to know we have their backs.