Democrats’ new faith outreach director launches ‘listening sessions’ with religious leaders

Religion News Service | 6/25/2019 | Staff
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(RNS) — Years after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign was criticized for what some argue was lackluster outreach to faith groups, the Democratic Party has hired a new religious outreach director and launched a round of listening sessions with faith leaders in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

“We take seriously the relationships that we have with faith communities around this country,” said the Rev. Derrick Harkins, a senior vice president at Union Seminary in New York, who will oversee faith outreach for the party. Formerly a pastor in Washington, D.C., he held a similar position with the party in 2012.

Faith - Harkins - Priority

Faith, Harkins said, “will be a priority going into 2020, but even more importantly, beyond 2020.”

Party leaders signaled their seriousness by appearing at two DNC roundtable discussions convened with faith leaders this month shortly after Harkins was hired. At the first, party CEO Seema Nanda met in Washington with leaders associated with the Union of Affirming Christians, a pro-LGBTQ group affiliated with Union Seminary. At the second, representatives of Islam, Sikhism, Coptic Christianity, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other faiths dialogued with Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez in New York.

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Another attendee in New York, Debbie Almontaser of the Bridging Cultures Group, said the gathering opened with leaders offering their feedback directly to Perez.

Almontaser, a Muslim, drew attention to what she described as recent attacks by politicians and media outlets on Muslim American members of Congress such as Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib because of their faith. Almontaser argued the DNC — and “specifically the leadership of the party” — should do more to defend them from such attacks.

Party - Racism - Bigotry - Room - Intolerance

“The party really needs to speak up and call out the racism and bigotry … that there is no room for intolerance and racism and Islamophobia,” Almontaser said she told...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Religion News Service
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