Faith leaders today are thanking God for justice and praying for reform, following the three guilty verdicts in the trial of former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin, a white man, kept Floyd’s neck under his knee for more than 9 minutes, killing the Black man and sparking a national and global reckoning about race and police brutality.
In remarks Tuesday after the verdicts, President Joe Biden expressed his hope that Floyd’s legacy would be about peace rather than violence.
“It’s my hope and prayer that we live up to the legacy,” the president said. “This can be a moment of significant change.”
Pastors and leaders of Christian organizations expressed similar sentiments and hope for positive change. Here’s a sampling:
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Jemar Tisby, author of ‘How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice’
“This verdict will not bring George Floyd back, and we have yet to hear the actual sentencing, but for the moment, at least the blatant disregard for Black life did not get exacerbated by yet another failure of the courts. We have been holding so much in for so long. Now is a moment to feel what we feel. And there’s no ‘right’ emotion in moments like these. We need to make space for people to feel all kinds of ways. For now, though, I hope we as a people can do what George Floyd was not allowed to do — breathe.”
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
“Today’s decision has demonstrated yet again how far we have to go on our long march toward justice. The wounds of our past continue to bleed into our present reality and the tensions in American life — revealed by this terrible tragedy — have remind(ed) us that there will probably be another George Floyd and another Derek Chauvin.
“The remedy — politically and judicially speaking — is the blind eye of justice guiding our legislators and judges, but the remedy for the soul of America is empathy, understanding and love of one’s neighbor whatever the color of their skin.”
Franklin Graham, CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse
“The verdict is in & Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all charges in the death of #GeorgeFloyd. Our legal system has worked & justice is being served. I hope all of America & our law enforcement will learn from this, & that we’ll become a better nation.
“My prayer is that our country will come together. I hope Christians will set the example & lead the way. Jesus told His disciples, ‘This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). George Floyd’s life mattered—every life matters to God.”
Marshal Ausberry, president, National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention
“The death of George Floyd is one more horrific memory added to the historical trauma that African Americans live with every day. While we don’t know Derrick Chauvin’s motivations, his actions resulted in a needless and senseless death. I pray for Derrick Chauvin and his family as they also have to live with the consequences of his actions.
“I pray for George Floyd’s family as they grieve their loss and that God grants them peace. I pray that the justice delivered will help the healing process for them and their community. I hope that the death of George Floyd will bring about police reform throughout the nation. There are many good and dutiful law enforcement personnel – we cannot taint all of them with the actions of Derrick Chauvin. But when law enforcement personnel cross the blue line, they need to be subject to swift justice.”
The Rev. Walter Kim, president, National Association of Evangelicals
“While this verdict cannot bring back the life of George Floyd, we pray that it enables his family and our country to take one step further on the long and hard journey toward true justice and lasting peace.”
The Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-convener, National African American Clergy Network
“Praise God that former white police (officer) Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges for the public execution of a father, and brother, Mr. George Floyd. While I feel great relief, sadly, this verdict means that a Black person must be murdered in public, followed by massive global protests for justice to be done. Sadly, too, the policing system is still on trial and must be radically transformed so that Black lives matter … then indeed, all lives will matter — Latino lives, Asian lives, Indigenous lives and White lives. We continue to pray for every Black and Brown mother whose unarmed son or daughter was killed by police and paid no price for it.”
Russell Moore, president, Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission
“Grateful for justice rendered in Minneapolis. Let’s remember today the family of George Floyd. And let’s work together for a new era of racial justice and American hope.”
Bishop T.D. Jakes, author and Dallas megachurch pastor
“While we are delighted by the jury’s verdict, we are mindful that there’s still a lot of work ahead of us. Our criminal justice system remains deeply flawed. Black people disproportionately remain victims of police brutality and are more likely to be pulled over or cited for negligible or phantom traffic violations. Let us not relent in our efforts to press our local, state and federal elected officials for police reform, particularly as it relates to qualified immunity, bias training, de-escalation training and uniform hiring standards.
“My prayer is that this will ignite a safer society where justice is equally allocated to absolutely everyone irrespective of socio-economics, race, religion or gender. Thank you to the many officers who do not stoop to such atrocities and honestly work toward protecting us every day.”
Evangelical Covenant Church
“The fact remains that George Floyd’s life was needlessly taken. George Floyd’s death illuminates a broader issue regarding the frequency with which deadly force is deployed by law enforcement against Black and Brown citizens and neighbors when alternative choices — non-lethal choices — could and should be made. This is not an indictment of all police officers. We know many serve with dignity, equity and selflessness, and we applaud them and commend their service. However, when an officer demonstrates disregard for human life, as was the case with Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, law enforcement must be held accountable. We implore officers who serve with integrity and protect our communities to willingly lend their support and voice to hold other officers accountable whenever they abuse their power.”
“We have all waited with palpable anxiety for the jury verdict in the case of Derek Chauvin. We have feared there would be a repeat of what has taken place far too many times, when white police officers have been acquitted of crimes against African American members of our communities.
“Today, justice was served. Today, justice stands tall. We know there is still a great deal of work to do, however, before justice prevails across our country. May we each commit ourselves to liberation and justice for ALL.”
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, Baltimore-Washington Conference, United Methodist Church
“Although the justice system has worked, there is still a family in pain over the unnecessary loss of their loved one. This is not a moment for celebration; it’s a time for reflection for all those involved in the death of George Floyd and all that unfolded in those nine minutes and 29 seconds last May, which prompted the largest movement for human rights in our nation’s history. It is a time for reflection on why justice is still elusive for far too many.
“The verdicts provide greater assurance for all Americans that life, regardless of ethnicity, is sacred, equal, and worthy. It bolsters the truth that each child of God inherently possesses rights that must be respected by everyone, including by those sworn to serve and protect our communities.”
The Rev. Bernice King, CEO of Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
“Oh, that George Floyd were still alive.
But I’m thankful for accountability.
The work continues.
Justice is a continuum.
And America must bend with the moral arc of the universe, which bends toward justice.”
Religion News Service contributed to this report.