BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Birmingham pastor is explaining comments he made during a visit with President Donald Trump on Wednesday that some consider controversial.
Dr. Van Moody, pastor of the Worship Center Christian Church, was one of several black pastors from across the U.S. who attended a meeting at the White House to discuss prison reform.
It was Moody's second trip to Washington, D.C. to speak with members of Trump's team about prison reform legislation called The First Step Act. Dr. Moody says his church has been involved in prison ministry for many years and currently serve in eight different prisons around Alabama each month. He says some of his members, and even ministry staff, are former prisoners causing the issue to be dear to his heart.
"Alabama prisons, according to certain statistics, are somewhere near 173 percent above capacity and this overcrowded nature of our prisons exacerbates issues like mental health, civil rights violation and safety and decency issues," Dr. Moody says.
In light of those concerns, Dr. Moody says he accepted an invitation to the White House to give his thoughts on the First Step Act earlier this year and then again on Wednesday.
"President Trump's administration seems to be concerned about the issue. What they did is asked me, along with other faith leaders, to come and share our thoughts about it," he said during a news conference held at his church Thursday.
Some critics say Dr. Moody should not have met with the president at all. But it's comments he made before C-Span cameras that have angered some in the community, including some of his own members.
"Thank you for your leadership on this issue," Dr. Moody is heard saying to the president. "Thank you for being compassionate and caring about all people."
Immediately on hearing the comments, many took to social media to sound off, asking how Dr. Moody could say the president cares about all people when they feel the way he's handled some issues speak just the opposite.
On Thursday, Dr. Moody explained that his comments came after the pastors attending that meeting met with President Trump in private. During the private meeting, Dr. Moody says Trump shared "some of his heart" on the issue of prison reform and it was those comments he was responding to.
"I don't regret the comments. What I regret is maybe what I should have said right after was, 'On these issues,'" Dr. Moody explained. "But once again, I do appreciate anybody that tries to help the poor, the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And that's my heart on the issue whether they be white or black."
Dr. Moody says his comments were not a blanket endorsement of all that Trump has done.
When asked if he would go back to the White House if invited again, Dr. Moody said he would pray on the matter as he had done the first two times.
You can view the full video of Dr. Moody's press conference on Thursday here.