NC Clergy Send Open Letter to State Government Leaders

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As Jews and Christians across North Carolina celebrated Passover and Holy Week, clergy from our Forward Together Moral Movement in North Carolina sent the following letter to our General Assembly leadership. Last summer, over 100,000 people came to the General Assembly to protest extremism and call for a new moral center to our common life. As we prepare for another legislative session this year, we pray for those in authority, that they might have ears to hear.
Dear Governor McCrory, President Pro Tempore Berger and Speaker Tillis:
In this holy season we write to you with a sense of urgency, prayer and call of faith to speak truth in love. The business of governance is complicated and often requires making unpopular policy decisions that alienate even the most beloved elected officials from their bases. Over the course of the last year, you and your colleagues made several unpopular policy decisions. These decisions cut resources from an already overstretched K-12 budget; they rejected health insurance for more than a half million of our poorest; and they rejected insurance payments that would have sustained out-of-work North Carolinians who had paid into the unemployment insurance program. Your decisions allow fracking to go forward while Duke Energy’s coal ash spills are permitted at the expense of our state’s water supply. Your decisions cut off women’s rights; undermined incarcerated people’s rights; and underfunded our state universities. Moreover, you passed egregious policies that undermine our democracy by impeding the voting rights of elderly, poor and minority citizens. There are a host of other negative decisions your leadership group made last year.
While we love all of you as members of the human family and fellow citizens of the State of North Carolina, we disagree with your decisions. Unpopular decisions are inevitable. But the policy positions we listed above are not only unpopular – they are constitutionally inconsistent, morally indefensible and economically insane. They are immoral because they negatively impact the lives and livelihoods of millions of North Carolinians. They strip people of their hard-earned rights to federal support. They strip others of access to resources they could receive in most other states. When your leadership group rejected the federal Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, for example, experts say nearly 3,000 North Carolinians will die prematurely because of your decision. These are people you swore to provide equal protection to, and to govern in their interest. Instead, they will die unnecessary deaths because of what appears to be an ideological desire to inflict political harm on the President by a refusing to participate in a beneficial and free federal health insurance program. We have heard the claim that the 10% share North Carolina must contribute after three years might create budgetary problems. Most observers, including other Republican Governors who have reconsidered their ill-advised rejection of these medical insurance funds, have calculated that this small sum North Carolina would have to contribute by 2017 will be considerably less than what North Carolinians will be paying now, as uninsured people are forced to go to expensive emergency rooms. Your decisions demonstrate fiscal imprudence and shortsighted thinking. They hurt the least of these while serving no legitimate policy purpose.
The Forward Together Moral Monday Movement advocates public policy that serves the people, not policies that serve a narrow anti-people ideology. We have tried not to cast personal aspersions on you and your colleagues in the General Assembly, but to call all of us to higher ground in our governance . . . to attend to God’s call that rests on all of us. The Forward Together Moral Movement, born out of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street Assemblies, had its origins in opposing Democratic Party politics on the same basis we oppose many of your decisions – – they are morally flawed; they hurt the poor, they hamper the access of the marginalized; and they undermine the integrity and common welfare of our state’s citizens. These policies violate the principal of “the good of the whole” and negatively impact the short and long term economic health of this state.
When we come from all over the state to Raleigh for Moral Mondays, petition your colleagues in the General Assembly for fairness in your policies, and surrender ourselves for moral obedience – these are not attempts to cause you or your colleague’s personal discomfort or undermine your governance. Rather these are our peaceful efforts to respond to God’s call to remind you of the creedal confessions you proclaim on Sunday mornings. We witness to remind you of the substance of the hymns you sing, of the content of the messages you hear your ministers give, and the heart of the Gospel message you and your colleagues claim is your own.
The Moral Monday Movement is an effort to call you and your colleagues to realize what you say you believe on Sunday morning should impact the way you live and the way you govern. You cannot say you love God, whom you have not seen, if you develop policies that hurt your brothers and sisters whom you encounter each day and whom you are pledged to serve! Our goal is to have governance correspond with the essential morality that lies in our most holy and scriptural traditions and in our normative beliefs of what is just and fair. Policies that fail to uplift the downtrodden, that fail to sustain the afflicted, that fail to enhance the lives of the underserved, that fail to expand the rights of the oft-forgotten, that fail to welcome strangers to our land, that fail to improve the quality of life for each of us as children of God – these policies fail the moral litmus test we are pledged to use to evaluate our state’s governance.
We believe one of the most egregious aspects of the decisions you and your colleagues promoted last year was the wholesale adoption of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s agenda, which Speaker Tillis helps to lead. We remember when you criticized our indigenous North Carolinian movement last year as being outsiders with an “alien agenda.” Your critique turned out to be fallacious as applied to the Moral Monday Movement, but it is wholly appropriate when applied to ALEC. This corporation-funded group is alien to North Carolina. Its legislative proposals are taken verbatim from an ideologically conservative playbook created hundreds of miles away from our state, and dropped un-contextualized onto our citizens. ALEC’s policies are inconsistent with our needs as a state and contrary to what will improve the quality of our lives. The ALEC playbook has taken us from being the model Southern state to being the butt of jokes in the national media. These policies have dropped us lower than South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama in terms of our voting rights and social policies.
We suggest it is time to move in a different direction, a new direction, a moral direction. We are in the middle of Passover, a holiday that commemorates God’s work to ensure justice for his people. We believe this is an appropriate time to come together to discuss issues of justice in our state. We are days away from celebrating Easter, a holiday that celebrates God’s work to ensure forgiveness and reconciliation. We believe this is an appropriate time to meet with you and your colleagues, our brothers and sisters in faith.
We propose a meeting before the short session begins to discuss key matters about the governance of our state with you and your leadership team. We represent people from across our diverse North Carolina; from all different racial, economic, religious, social and political constituencies. We wish to share our concerns with you in search of ways to renew our state and to make our government responsive to the needs of all our people. We believe we can find some common ground on key issues to move forward together. We look forward with great anticipation to forging a new relationship with you and the other members of your leadership team to plot a new direction for our state.
With God’s Grace and Peace,
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II
Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church
President, NC NAACP
Architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement
Rev. Dr. Dumas A. Harshaw, Jr
Pastor of First Baptist Church
Rev. Nancy Petty
Pastor of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Portia Rochelle
Pastor of Word for Transformation Church and Outreach Inc.
Rev. Dr. Fred Gibson
Pastor of Greater Providence Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Gregory K. Moss
Pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Peter Wherry
Pastor of Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Sheldon Shipman
Pastor of Greenville Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Dr. Dwayne Walker
Pastor of Little Rock A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Dr. Cardis Brown
Pastor of New Light Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Alfonso McGlenn
Pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Zion Church
Rev. Dr. Nelson Johnson
Pastor of Faith Community Center
Imam Khalial Akbar
Masjid Ash Shaheed
Rev. Dr. John Mendez
Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Earl Johnson
Pastor of Martin Street Baptist
Rev. Dr. Jimmie Hawkins
Pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church
Rev. Kojo Nantambu
Pastor of Green Oak Missionary Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. William Turner
Pastor of Mount Level Baptist Church
c: Forward Together Moral Movement Partners