Faith leaders back Biden in sign that evangelical support for Trump is waning

<span>Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP</span>
Photograph: Andrew Harnik/AP

More than 1,600 faith leaders in the US have publicly backed Joe Biden, the Democratic candidate in next month’s presidential election, amid signs that some evangelical voters are turning away from Donald Trump.

The Biden endorsements mainly come from Catholics, evangelicals and mainline Protestants. They include Jerushah Duford, the granddaughter of Billy Graham; Susan Johnson Cook, a former US ambassador for religious freedom; Michael Kinnamon, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches; and Gene Robinson, a former bishop in the Episcopal church.

“This record-breaking group of endorsers shows that President Trump’s lack of kindness and decency is energizing faith communities and will cost him this election,” said Doug Pagitt, executive director of the Christian campaign organisation Vote Common Good, which compiled the endorsements.

The organisation said the announcement represents the largest group of clergy to endorse a Democratic candidate for president in modern history.

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“Four years ago, many religious voters decided to look the other way and give Trump a chance, but after witnessing his cruelty and corruption, a growing number of them are turning away from the president.”

In the 2016 election, more than 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, with many taking the view that his pledge to make conservative and pro-life appointments to the supreme court outweighed unease about his personal behaviour. White evangelicals make up about a quarter of the US electorate.

But some surveys have suggested an erosion of support for Trump among white evangelicals. A poll conducted last month on behalf of Vote Common Good in five key battleground states found an 11-point swing among evangelical and Catholic voters towards Biden.

In July the Public Religion Research Institute found a seven-point drop in white Christian support for Trump, and a Fox News survey in August showed 28% of white evangelicals backed Biden, compared with 16% who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.

A group called Pro-life Evangelicals for Biden said that, despite disagreeing with the Democratic candidate’s stance on abortion, “we believe that on balance, Joe Biden’s policies are more consistent with the biblically shaped ethic of life than those of Donald Trump. Therefore … we urge evangelicals to elect Joe Biden as president.”

Biden, a Catholic who has frequently spoken of how his faith has sustained him through challenging times, is hoping to win over undecided Catholic voters with a series of ads broadcast in battleground states.

Some Catholic bishops have issued statements criticising Trump’s policies. Last month, more than 150 Catholic theologians, activists and nuns signed an open letter to Catholic voters urging them to oppose Trump, saying he “flouts core values at the heart of Catholic social teaching”.

Responding to the Christian leaders’ endorsement of Biden, Josh Dickson, faith engagement director of the Democratic candidate’s campaign, said: “The common good values of the Biden-Harris agenda are resonating with voters motivated by faith. We know that Joe Biden and [running mate] Kamala Harris are the clear moral choice in this election. We hope this show of support will encourage other voters of faith to make their values, not party affiliation, their primary voting criteria this year.”

One of those publicly backing Biden, Ronald Sider, president emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action, said: “I urge everyone, especially evangelicals, to support Joe Biden as president. Poverty, racism, lack of healthcare and climate change are all ‘pro-life’ issues. On those and many other issues, Biden is much closer than Trump to what biblical values demand.”

Belinda Bauman, the author of Brave Souls: Experiencing the Audacious Power of Empathy, said: “In all my years I’ve never publicly endorsed a candidate. But this year is different – very different. This year we don’t just face a political choice, we face a moral one.”