NEW YORK (AP) — The national GOP's director of evangelical outreach is quitting, and lodging complaints about what he calls the party's "tone deaf attitude" toward a crucial Republican voting bloc.
Chad Connelly, who served as the Republican National Committee's director of faith engagement for the last four years, announced his resignation in an email circulated to close friends late Thursday. He complained that religious outreach has not been prioritized at the RNC under the leadership structure implemented by President Donald Trump's White House.
"The treatment I received from the new political department has been disrespectful, antagonistic and unacceptable," Connelly wrote in an email that was obtained by The Associated Press. He added, "GOP Faith in general and me in particular, just don't have the priority I anticipated."
The Republican National Committee rejected Connelly's assertion and said his departure had more to do with concerns about his job performance.
"Chad failed to meet simple metrics, expectations, and responsibilities crucial to his duties at the RNC. Because of the importance of faith engagement to the RNC, it was time to move in a new direction in the department in order to expand our efforts," said RNC political director Juston Johnson.
Connelly previously served as the chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. He was an ally of former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who tapped Connelly to serve as the RNC's first-ever director of faith engagement in 2013.
Trump's victory last fall was due in part to his popularity among white evangelical voters. He won 81 percent of white evangelical Christians, a figure higher than the GOP's last three presidential nominees.
A frustrated Connelly highlighted the importance of the nation's faith community in the email that criticized several RNC officials by name.
"Pastors and faith leaders and people sitting in pews are THE key element in winning elections. An increase in church engagement of only a few percentage points is often the difference in victory and defeat," Connelly wrote. "We have learned and re-learned those lessons and unfortunately, it appears that your political department would want us to learn it again."
He wrote that he "truly was stunned at the treatment I received but mostly at the tone deaf attitude toward this voting segment" that the head of the RNC's political department demonstrated.
Johnson, however, pledged that the RNC's faith and engagement team would have "a larger footprint" in the 2018 midterm elections.