HOW FAITH COMMUNITIES FUEL SOCIAL MOVEMENTS Lessons for Climate Advocacy from the Immigration, Black Lives Matter, and President Trump Election Campaigns

The goal of this study is to provide a current analysis of how the visible social movements — specifically New Sanctuary (immigration rights), Black Lives Matter, and the 2016 election of President Trump — as well as faith communities’ involvement, have led to the progress of each. It offers learnings and lessons from these campaigns in an effort to help advocates for climate solutions to become more effective.


People of faith and religious leaders have been bearing witness and articulating moral arguments against societal injustices for centuries. Today, for many, faith values are driving forces for immigrant-rights advocacy and mobilization. The New Sanctuary Movement’s objective is to “protect and stand with immigrants faced with deportation.” This includes immigrants with and without citizenship status. Moral imperatives drive New Sanctuary Movement participants to live their values on family, justice, and protecting the most vulnerable. Its genesis is rooted in religious belief and practice, but its values and mission have garnered participation well beyond the faith community.


Black Lives Matter works to elevate awareness and end the systematic oppression, racial profiling, villainization, and mass incarceration of black Americans. According to the Black Lives Matter Global Network, Black Lives Matter has “committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive.” What began as a passionate response and a hashtag on Twitter (#BlackLivesMatter) has since evolved into the eponymous nationwide movement to revalidate the fact that black humanity is and should be valued as much as any other.


The election of President Trump in 2016 reflected decades-long strategy and planning by the religious right to effect political change in America. The Trump campaign enthusiastically supported this effort. In addition to selecting the evangelical Mike Pence for his running mate, Trump hand-selected 25 evangelical leaders for his Evangelical Advisory Board, with whom he held weekly calls during his campaign. Many of the members came from the world of TV ministry. These advisers continue to influence the president and have contributed to numerous conversations and decisions that could shape America for decades to come.


Faith leaders and communities’ involvement has helped achieve progress in each of these movements. In addition, key aspects of the strategies and tactics that these movements use are uniquely contemporary and can provide guidance to help move America forward on climate solutions. The climate movement can harness these learnings to grow a movement that is both geographically diffuse, yet unified – the first engaged citizenry of its kind. Recommendations include:

1. Think Nationally, Act Locally

2. Go Public in Partnerships and Make Public Commitments

3. Collaborate for Inclusion and Reach

4. Get Personal: Move Past Fear Toward an Emotional Tipping Point

5. Make Messages Moral: Ground Communication in Traditional Values, and Repeat Often

6. Empower Success: Create and Share a Breadth and Depth of Best Practices and Tools

7. Become Modern-Media Savvy: Right-Size Content, Employ Innovation, Then Let Go

8. Have Faith: Involve the Faith Community More Meaningfully