President Donald Trump recently met with a group of Black and Latino pastors about prison reform issues. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been meeting with journalists in off-the-record briefings on the issue of prison reform and is working with Congress to build support for the “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person Act” (FIRST STEP Act).
Jared Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, served time in federal prison in Alabama; Jared has taken a special interest in prison reform and pushed to pass the “FIRST STEP Act.” The bill has passed the House and awaits consideration in the Senate.
During the on-camera portion of the meeting, none of the pastors asked any substantive questions; some of them heaped praise on President Trump.
Dr. Van Moody of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Ala., thanked President Trump “for being compassionate and caring about all people.”
Dr. Moody praised the president’s compassion, despite the recent revelation that officials with the Department of Health and Human Services warned the Trump administration that separating families would be dangerous for children, The New York Times reported.
“Trump dropped the policy more than a month ago under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike,” according to The New York Times. “But of more than 2,500 children who were initially separated from parents and guardians, hundreds remain in federal custody including more than 400 whose parents left the U.S. without them.”
Senior Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., prayed over the meeting.
“Dr. King said we cannot influence a table that we are not seated at,” Gray prayed. “And so we pray that this conversation will be fruitful, and productive, and honoring of the best traditions of this nation.”
The group of pastors included: Senior Pastor Dale Bronner of Word of Faith Family Worship Cathedral in Atlanta, Ga. ; Senior Pastor “Choco” Wilfredo De Jesus of New Life Covenant in Chicago, Ill.; Pastor Michael E. Freeman of Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Prince George’s County, Md.; Dr. Phillip Goudeaux of the Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, Fla.; Senior Pastor John Gray of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C.; Travis Hayes, the CFO of Our Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C.; Bishop Darrell Lynn Hines of Christian Faith Fellowship Church of God in Christ in Milwaukee, Wisc.; Senior Pastor Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md.; Dr. Alveda King of Alveda King Ministries in Atlanta, Ga.; Pastor Julian Desmond Lowe of Oasis Church in Los Angeles, Calif.; and Dr. Van Moody of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Ala.
President Willie G. Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors, Senior Pastor Benny Perez of Church LV in Las Vegas, Nev.; Pastor Jon Ponders of Las Vegas, Nev.; Pastor Darrell Scott of the New Spirit Revival Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Bishop Kyle Searcy of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Ala.; Senior Pastor Paula White-Cain of the New Destiny Christian Center, Apopka, Fla.; and Marvin Winans Jr. from Detroit, Mich., also attended.
Trump asked the pastors to each speak on the issue and share their thoughts. Many of the pastors, who of course were hand-picked by the White House, offered compliments on Trump’s leadership and his commitment to faith-based initiatives and the recent efforts on prison reform.
Dr. Goudeaux asked President Trump not to “give up on California,” a line that made everyone laugh, while Travis Hayes, the CFO of Our Relentless Church said, “I’m honored to be here among—in the presence of greatness.”
Pastor Darrell Scott said that Trump was going to be the, “most pro-Black president that we’ve had in our lifetime.”
“This president actually wants to prove something to our community—our faith-based community and our ethnic community,” Scott said. “[President Obama] didn’t feel like he had to…he got a pass.
Jared Kushner noted that President Trump asked him to lead efforts to try to reform America’s prisons and to see what could be done at the federal government-level.
According to the Sentencing Project, one in every 10 Black men his thirties is in prison or jail on any given day. The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration.
“We were running into a little problem of politics in Congress,” Kushner said, adding that he reached out to the pastors to help get the word out about the need for prison reform and “to let people in Washington know that making progress on this issue was more important than whatever political differences people may have.”
The session with the pastors at the White House lasted about an hour.
In addition to President Trump and the pastors, the White House attendees included Chief of Staff John Kelly; Brooke Rollins, assistant to the president on intergovernmental and technology initiatives; Andrew Bremberg, director of the Domestic Policy Council; Ja’Ron Smith, special assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs; and Jennifer Korn, special assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison.