First Trump faith advisor ‘resigns’ from presidential board

Pastor A.R. Bernard gives the invocation at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, in Washington, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was 50 years ago today when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the memorial. CREDIT: AP/Carolyn Kaster

One of Donald Trump’s faith advisors has “resigned” from his capacity as a counselor to the president, citing a “deepening conflict of values” between him and the administration.

A.R. Bernard, an African American megachurch pastor in New York City, announced the news Friday evening on Twitter. He says he submitted his resignation earlier this week, on August 15, following Trump’s defense of white supremacists who protested in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.

Johnnie Moore, for Vice-President of Liberty University and longtime member of the board, sent ThinkProgress a statement about Bernard’s resignation.

“I deeply respect and have always respected, Dr. Bernard. Sometimes, friends disagree & that doesn’t change our commitment to our shared faith and friendship,” he told ThinkProgress in an email. “We have every intention to continue to extend invitations to him to contribute his perspective on issues important to all of us.”

But while Bernard has gone the way of various CEOs who have distanced themselves from Trump, most other Trump faith advisors have refused to do so . Moore said on Friday that resigning from the board would be “immoral,” a sentiment seconded by fellow Trump confidante Rev. Jack Graham. Latino evangelical leader Tony Suarez also told ThinkProgress on Thursday that he is called to remain an advisor to the president because pastors “don’t walk away in times of trouble.”

Meanwhile, Ralph Reed—head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and another Trump supporter—appeared to chastise Bernard on Twitter while responding to another tweet, seemingly characterizing the pastor’s decision to leave the board is “politics.” Reed later clarified that he was responding to those who were calling on him to resign, not judging Bernard’s departure, which he sees as a “matter of conscience.”

Suarez, for his part, tweeted a reference to the biblical story of Zacchaeus. Suarez compared Trump to Zacchaeus in a October 2016 interview with ThinkProgress.

Mark Burns, a longtime Trump faith advisor, reiterated his refusal to resign in a series of tweets and a video posted to Twitter.

Technically speaking, it’s not clear what Bernard is resigning from, as sources tell ThinkProgress there is no formal presidential faith advisory board. However, Bernard—who voted for both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton—was one of the first members of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board during the campaign, which has maintained an informal advisory role during the administration. Members of the board were not required to endorse the president during the campaign.

This post was updated to include Ralph Reed’s clarification.