Sacramento black pastor to Trump: You’ve ‘given us a new hope.’ Now he faces a backlash

A prominent pastor from a North Sacramento church was among a group of black religious leaders who met with President Donald Trump this week at the White House.

Phillip Goudeaux of Calvary Christian Center on Del Paso Boulevard was among more than a dozen black religious leaders who sat down with Trump on Wednesday at a meeting that the White House said was organized to share ideas about prison reform and criminal justice.

Goudeaux and other participants now face a backlash for meeting with a president whose policies some argue have hurt poor people and African Americans.

At the event, the pastors widely praised Trump, with one participant calling him “the most pro-black president we’ve had in our lifetime,” according to a transcript of the meeting provided by the White House.

“This president actually wants to prove something to our community,” said Pastor Darrell Scott of Cleveland Heights, Ohio. “The last president didn’t feel like he had to,” Scott said of Barack Obama. “He felt like he didn’t have to prove it. He got a pass.”

Trump talked briefly at the beginning of the meeting about his administration’s efforts at creating jobs, investing in distressed communities and helping former prisoners find work. Then he asked each pastor to speak.

Goudeaux’s remarks were brief. According to the transcript, he thanked the president for restoring “hope” to his constituents.

“Please don’t give up on California and Sacramento,” he said. “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. And we appreciate that leadership, your tenacity to keep pushing in against all the opposition that comes against you. Thank you so much.”

Efforts to reach Goudeaux on Thursday were unsuccessful.

This spring, Goudeaux was a spiritual adviser to the family of Stephon Clark after Clark was shot dead by police officers in south Sacramento. Clark attended Calvary Christian as a child.

Goudeaux’s church also hosted the funeral for slain Grant High School football player Jaulon “JJ” Clavo in 2015.

Some leaders in Sacramento’s African American community lashed out at Goudeaux’s participation in the event on social media Thursday. They argued that by attending the event, he was endorsing Trump administration policies, which they said favor wealthy people and hurt minority communities.

Tre Borden, who works on urban revitalization projects in the Sacramento area, posted a photo of Goudeaux at the meeting on his Facebook page. He called the local pastor and other participants “shameless” and “contemptible” for taking part in the White House gathering.

In an interview, Borden said he attended Calvary Christian Center as a child.

“The majority of people in Phillip Goudeaux’s Del Paso congregation are poor and black,” he said. “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?”

Other pastors who participated in the meeting also seem to be facing criticism.

South Carolina pastor John Gray, on his church’s Facebook page, said he vacillated about attending.

“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.’ Wise words from a loving, discerning wife,” he wrote.

After praying about it, he said, he decided to go.

“This post is in no way attempting to invalidate the visceral reaction of those who can’t imagine why I would be in the room,” Gray wrote. “The question becomes who did Jesus turn away from? This said, I went to this meeting to listen. And I do pray for comprehensive prison reform so people can have the second chance they need.”

Nikki Whitfield, another Sacramento social activist and former member of Calvary Christian, weighed in on Goudeaux’s participation on her Facebook page. Dozens of her friends joined in the conversation.

In an interview, Whitfield called Goudeaux a charismatic pastor who “loves people,” and whose “passion is true.”

“But as a leader in the black community and a pastor to impoverished people,” she said, “it is unacceptable for him to sit at that table” and praise a president who “over and over again has aligned himself with racists and Nazis” and has shown little compassion for underprivileged people.

Goudeaux, Whitfield said, “has had an amazing ministry, and he’s done good things. But I’ve lost whatever smidgen of respect that I had for him. I’m disgusted.”