Standing in front of a Faithful America mobile billboard calling on Christian nationalist speakers at an event headlined by disgraced General Michael Flynn to “stop twisting our faith to attack democracy,” a group of local faith leaders and national clergy will speak at a press event and answer questions at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday, August 12.
The faith leaders will gather at First Baptist Church (306 E. Main Street, Batavia, New York) as a part of their ongoing effort to warn their communities and congregations of the dangers posed by the anti-democracy Christian nationalism, potential political violence, and disinformation on display at the upcoming stop of the ReAwaken America Tour (RAT) hosted by Flynn, Eric Trump, Clay Clark, and other notable far-right figures who helped to inspire the January 6, 2021 insurrection. The tour, which features stops across the country, arrives Friday at Cornerstone Church in Batavia for a two-day event. Flynn is expected to speak Friday morning following a worship time led by Sean Feucht, who has used members of the Proud Boys for his personal security.
Religious leaders speaking at Centennial Park in opposition to RAT will include both local and national leaders:
- The Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri, Presbyterian Church (USA)
- The Rev. Dr. Shiela Campbell McCullough, chaplain, Batavia resident and representative of the New York State Council of Churches
- The Rev. Dr. William Wilkinson, teaching elder and pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Medina
- Sareer Fazili, president of Pittsford Youth Services, past president of the Islamic Center of Rochester, and member of the Barakah Muslim Charity Board of Trustees
- The Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director, Faithful America
- Pastor Doug Pagitt, executive director and co-chair, Vote Common Good
- The Rev. Jennifer Butler, founder in residence, Faith in Public Life
The tour stop in Batavia comes after organizers of the anti-democracy tour had to scramble to find a new venue following the cancelation of its originally planned stop in Rochester.
"Many might be unaware of the type of negative stereotypes and radicalization that are being brewed by the ReAwaken America Tour. In a time already full of division, this has the potential for a significant negative impact on our community’s ability to talk with one another,” said the Rev. Laurel Nelson, speaking on behalf of the Racial Justice Working Group of the Presbytery of Genesee Valley. “In fact, those who have spoken out against the tour have already been subject to vitriol and threats. Although few of the tour’s speakers expose themselves to prosecution by explicitly calling for violence, they allow their audience to connect the dots by downplaying past political violence committed in God's name, associating themselves with extremist groups, demonizing their political opponents, and urging supporters to win the battle for God against their fellow Americans. This kind of division builds hate, hurts communities and makes our democracy vulnerable to more violence.”
“We reject General Flynn and his allies’ hijacking of the Gospel for political purposes. This tour is a dangerous and immoral political event in Jesus’ name that promotes misinformation, lies, and even out-right violence, and has no place in the church of God,” added the Rev. Nathan Empsall, executive director of Faithful America, which sponsored the mobile billboard and has been working closely with clergy in Rochester and Batavia to oppose the tour.
Nationally, more than 21,000 Christians have signed petitions from Faithful America, rejecting the ReAwaken America Tour and asking churches not to associate with the event. Another 25,000 Christians -- including the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America -- also signed a previous statement from the Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative denouncing the ideology that now underlies the tour.