Two black Christian pastors who were among a group of religious leaders meeting with President Trump at the White House this week are now facing backlash from congregants back home.
The Rev. Phillip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Center in Sacramento, Calif., and the Rev. John Gray, head of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., came under fire from critics who say Trump's policies have harmed the black community.
But at Wednesday's event, dubbed “Meeting with Inner City Pastors,” many of the pastors who attended expressed sympathetic views toward Trump, with one pastor -- the Rev. Darrell Scott, of Cleveland -- calling Trump “the most pro-black president we’ve had in our lifetime.”
Scott also slammed former President Barack Obama for not trying to “prove something to our community” because “he got a pass.”
Goudeaux, a spiritual adviser to the family of Stephon Clark – the unarmed black man who was fatally shot March 18 by two police officers in Sacramento -- praised Trump as well, saying the president restored “hope” to his community, but jokingly urged Trump to not give up on the state of California.
“Please don’t give up on California and Sacramento,” Goudeaux quipped, according to the transcript. “I’m right in the capital there, and we’re working in every area to try to make a difference in people’s lives.
"So, I guess the greatest word I can say for you, Mr. President, is that you have given this country expectations, given us a new hope, a new excitement to believe that things are getting better and are going to get better."
“So, I guess the greatest word I can say for you, Mr. President, is that you have given this country expectations, given us a new hope, a new excitement to believe that things are getting better and are going to get better,” Goudeaux continued. “And we appreciate that leadership, your tenacity to keep pushing in against all the opposition that comes against you. Thank you so much.”
Gray, meanwhile, was skeptical about attending the meeting with Trump and initially thought he would decline the invitation.
“My wife told me ‘If you go, no one will hear what you say. They won’t understand why you’re there. And any good that could come out of it will get lost in translation,’” Gray wrote on Facebook. “I had not one thing to gain by being there. Not. One.”
Gray said he eventually decided attending the event and even led the prayer so he could speak out about prison reform.
"That could greatly end up benefiting many people who look just like me."
“That could greatly end up benefiting many people who look just like me,” he said. “The pain of so many is too real. The hurt. The isolation. The sense of disenfranchisement. The real hate that has bubbled to the surface of the national discourse.
"I myself have been vocal about my personal disagreements with key policy decisions of this administration,” he added.
But despite their open-minded approach, the two pastors were still facing condemnation from their communities.
Tre Borden, who works in the Sacramento area and attended the Calvary Christian Center when he was young, shared a photo of Goudeaux and called him and other religious leaders “shameless” and “contemptible” for attending the meeting, the Sacramento Bee reported.
“The majority of people in Phillip Goudeaux’s Del Paso congregation are poor and black,” he told the publication. “For him or any other black religious leader to align himself with Trump and his policies in this day and age is extremely distressing and hypocritical. How can he possibly think our current president is helping people who are on the margins of society?”
Gray is reaching out to many people who are criticizing him on social media. His Facebook posts concerning the meeting drew thousands of comments, many of which were critical.
“The pain of those who have been hurt is real. And I would be a dishonorable man not to acknowledge that,” Gray wrote. “But I will honor what I believe was the mandate on my life to be there and available to God should He choose to give me voice,” he added, noting that his comments on social media about why he attended didn’t “invalidate the visceral reaction of those who can’t imagine why I would be in the room.”