The Washington Word (Faith in Public Life) highlights NC’s Moral Mondays
Faith in Public Life (FPL) is a strategy center for the faith community advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good. FPL’s Executive Director, Jennifer Butler, recently discussed events here in North Carolina in her weekly “Washington Word” newsletter. To receive the “Washington Word,” which is extremely well-written and insightful, just sign up by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s hard to believe, but some state capitols are even more polarized and radical than Congress. One such example is North Carolina, where Republicans control the governorship and both houses of the legislature. They’ve rejected the federally funded expansion of Medicaid even though it would cover 500,000 people and shore up the state’s finances. They’re planning to slash taxes on the richest North Carolinians and raise them on poor working families. They’reobstructing the right to vote. They’re cutting education.
Clergy have mounted an inspiring, ongoing response at the state capitol in Raleigh – “Moral Mondays.” Started by the leadership of the North Carolina NAACP in late April, these demonstrations have grown larger week after week, and more than 350 people, including many faith leaders, have been arrested in acts of civil disobedience. This Monday’s gathering drew several thousand people, nearly 60 of whom were arrested.
As rabbis at this week’s event told reporters, the civil disobedience was not an option of first resort – Republican legislators repeatedly blew off meeting requests from clergy who are eager to discuss the impact the North Carolina GOP’s policies have on the common good. As the movement has gained steam, some politicians have resorted to insulting Moral Mondays participants. The governor dismissed it all as an effort led by “outsiders,” and one state legislator dubbed it “Moron Mondays.” It brings to mind Gandhi’s saying, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
When politicians use their power to harm innocent people, sometimes the only recourse is a bold public exercise of conscience. As the clergy leaders of Moral Mondays confront their misguided elected officials, the public debate has come to focus on moral values rather than partisan politics. That’s an important step. Many other states are facing political situations similar to North Carolina’s. Here’s hoping they have as much impact as faith leaders in the Tar Heel state.
-Chris Liu-Beers, Program Associate