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Moral MarchThe following essay was submitted to NC Policy Watch by the Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, a national organization based in Washington, DC that is dedicated to “advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”

Attacks on Moral March miss their mark
By Rev. Jennifer Butler

The recent criticisms leveled by newspaper columnist J. Peder Zane and others against Rev. William Barber II for using religious and moral language to inspire political change displayed a disregard for history and even contempt for the role of faith in public life.

As we commemorate the 54th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in that sought to end legal segregation, let’s never forget that the Civil Rights movement was a religiously inspired, prophetic movement led by pastors and diverse people of faith. The late Franklin McCain, one of the Greensboro Four, said the question that inspired him and three other students at the Agricultural and Technical College (AT&T) of North Carolina in Greensboro was this: “At what point does a moral man act against injustice?”

Religious leaders have been central to movements that drive political change. The struggle to end the evil of slavery, create fair labor practices and secure equal rights for all citizens were profound moral causes. We are stronger as a country because determined people of faith challenged political and social threats to human dignity. The unfinished task of living up to the ideals of our democracy and stirring the conscience of Americans continues today.

Rev Barber is raising important and often uncomfortable questions about educational disparities, voting rights and economic injustice that impact not only North Carolinians, but the entire nation. Here are some telling signs of the times. CEOs often earn as much in a single day as their workers make in an entire year. Minimum wage jobs don’t pay enough to keep many hardworking Americas out of poverty. Half of all workers are not allowed to take a sick day without being docked pay or potentially losing their job. Congress is slashing food nutrition programs for struggling families even as corporations are coddled with tax breaks. These are moral scandals. Faith leaders will continue to speak truth to power.

The separation of church and state is meant to protect both religion and democracy. Because our government does not enforce an official religion, America has a diverse religious marketplace. Speaking from deeply held beliefs about the issues that affect us all is a healthy sign of pluralism and strength, not confining moralism. Those who argue that religious leaders should be silent in public debates have not only failed to learn the lessons of the past, they deprive us of powerful voices that can help forge a more just future.

For more information on the organization Faith in Public Life, visit the website by clicking here.

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hk-2This morning’s edition of the Weekly Briefing spells out eight reasons — four “big picture” and four, “practical and down to earth” — why you should march in this Saturday’s Moral March on Raleigh.

Here’s one:

“North Carolina is Ground Zero in the ideological contest over the nation’s future –America may be politically polarized at this moment in its history, but at some point in the foreseeable future, a combination of demographic, economic and, perhaps even environmental changes is going to help break the logjam. And while there are some encouraging indications that things will break in a progressive direction – the rapid progress in LGBT equality is perhaps the most obvious sign – this is anything but a sure thing, especially given the overwhelming financial resources at the disposal of the forces of reaction. Right now, no state in the union better exemplifies this sharp divide than deeply purple North Carolina. There is simply no more urgent time or better place to join the battle.”

See ya’ Saturday at 9:30!

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Well, another Moral Monday is upon us, click here for information about the wheres and whens for today’s events in Charlotte, Burnsville and Manteo.

And speaking of Moral Monday, check out this editorial from Saturday’s Charlotte Observer about some of the cold, hard facts being lifted up by the MM protests.

And speaking of excellent editorial page content from over the weekend, check out this piece that ran in the Fayetteville Observer by former city council member and veteran activist Denny Shaffer, in which he explains the ultimate objectives of the state’s right-wing political movement.

And speaking of the disastrous impact of right-wing policies, check out this post by blogger extraordinaire Steve Benen about the slow motion wreck that is taking place across the nation as a result of the cuts inflicted by the absurd “sequestration” path forced by Congress.

And speaking of disastrous, slow motion cuts, activists will be rallying in Raleigh tomorrow to combat the ongoing demise of the minimum wage and the rights of fast food industry workers. The event will take place at 3:30 pm at Martin Street Baptist Church. RSVP by calling 919-604-8167 or emailing itsaredletterday@gmail.com.

And finally, speaking of people with whom such protests would have resonated, check out this tribute to the late Catholic Bishop Joe Gossman of Raleigh by George Reed of the Council of Churches. Oh, how the North Carolina Catholic community could benefit from someone of Gossman’s courage and progressive views today.

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Scalia,_SCOTUS_photo_portrait

Justice Antonin Scalia

In remarks styled “Mullahs of the West: Judges as Moral Arbiters,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia today told members of the North Carolina Bar Association, gathered in Asheville for their annual meeting, that judges have been increasingly asked to decide the moral issues of our time — a role they are ill-equipped to perform and one they should be hesitant to accept.

“Whether a woman has a natural right to an abortion, whether society has a right to take a man’s life for his crimes, whether a human being has a right to take his own life and to have the assistance of others in doing so – these and many similar questions involve basic morality,” Scalia said.

But judges are in no better position than anyone else to determine what is moral, he added.

“In a democratic society, it is the people, not unelected judges, who should be debating and resolving these issues.  There is no more reason to take these issues away from the people than there is on matters of economic policy, because there is no expert to decide them.”

Scalia blamed this “addiction to abstract moralizing” on the court’s move from treating the Constitution as a static document to a living one that requires a continual adjustment to societal expectations.

“Until relatively recently, the meaning of laws, including fundamental laws such as constitutions, was thought to be static,” he said. “What vague provisions such as a right to respect for private life or a right to equal protection meant could readily be determined in most areas from the practices that existed at the time it was enacted.  And only the people could bring about change — by amending the Constitution (women’s right to vote, for example). With a living constitution, it falls upon judges to interpret its provisions with regard to society’s changing standards of decency.”

That moralizing has crept into the judicial selection process, which has become increasingly politicized, he added.

“Instead of looking for qualified people, we are looking for those who agree with us as to what the annually-revised Constitution should say. And once we let that happen, the Constitution ceases to do what it was designed to do, and that is to prevent the majority from doing what they want to do.”