It’s now common for political leaders to offer their “thoughts and prayers” online after a mass shooting. The high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, this week proved to be no different.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) sent their prayers soon after news broke that a gunman had shot and killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. President Donald Trump tweeted his “prayers and condolences” to the victims’ families.

From a spiritual perspective, there’s nothing wrong with thoughts and prayers. Prayer can be helpful and even transformative for a family going through the shock of a loved one’s untimely death. For congregations, prayer can offer comfort in times of unspeakable sorrow and often serve as the first step toward organizing a joint response. 

But when political leaders’ prayers for the victims of gun violence aren’t followed by concrete steps toward ending that violence, some religious leaders say the spiritual gesture can feel like empty ― especially when the prayers are coming from politicians who accept financial support from the National Rifle Association.

This week, a chorus of faith leaders from different religious backgrounds pointed out the hypocrisy of calling for prayer and then not following that up with action. 

Read their reactions below:

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