There’s a simple reason that the Pope-Civitas Institute (an organization that was founded by one of the state’s richest and most powerful men and named after his father) still struggles to be taken seriously in the North Carolina policy debate after years of effort, even in the current hard right political environment — namely, the low quality of the content it regularly produces.

New confirmation of this fact is on full display today in the group’s latest below-the-belt attack on the President of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber.

Of course, scurrilous Civitas attacks on Barber are nothing especially new. Every few months, it seems, the group finds some out-of-date and unflattering photo of Barber to marry with some laughable implication that Barber is somehow enriching himself with public funds. Remember the downright offensive “Money Monday” baloney from a couple of years back? As we explained at the time:

“…it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry at the utter disconnection from reality that these libelous attacks bespeak.

On the one hand, they are just so downright (and comically) crude and ham-fisted that you almost have to cringe in embarrassment for the Pope-Civitas people. Seriously, the notion that giant organizations with proud histories like the NAACP, AARP and the YWCA are protesting the myriad regressive actions of the 2013 General Assembly because some branch happens to administer a few thousand dollars in public funds is just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe that a supposedly serious group – a group nervy enough to describe itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice” – would stoop to allege it.

Similarly, to imply that Rev. William Barber – a courageous man who works night and day at enormous personal sacrifice, physical pain and even personal risk; a man who directs a tiny paid staff and who has, for years, tirelessly traveled the length and breadth if the state in an old minivan to help countless underdog causes – is doing what he is doing in order to advance his own personal financial agenda, is just so utterly wrong and, for lack of a better word, malicious that it must render any fair-minded observer virtually speechless.”

Now, Pope-Civitas is at it again — trying to manufacture a controversy out of whole cloth over the fact that Barber serves as the unpaid chair of the the board of a Goldsboro nonprofit that receives Department of Public Instruction funds (via a competitive grant process) to help serve low and moderate income families (irrespective of their religious beliefs) and promote community economic development.

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Another week and another foot-in-mouth incident for a conservative North Carolina politician. Last week it was House Speaker Thom Tillis and his crack about “traditional voters.” Now this week it’s former State Representative and current state GOP Vice-Chairperson Carolyn Justice in an awkward attempt to defend Tillis. This is from a story on yesterday’s Washington Post “She the People” blog entitled “North Carolina Republicans try — despite themselves — to win minority voters”:

“Last week, before the RNC announcement, Carolyn Justice, vice chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, said in an interview on “Charlotte Talks” on WFAE, the local NPR affiliate, that critics of the Tillis ‘traditional’ voter comments were just misinterpreting what the man she called “the most non-prejudiced human I have met” said. In a tough Senate contest, “We’re going to go for every little thread we can pull?” she wondered.

Then she went on to give an example of how anyone’s words can be twisted. ‘I can tell you lots of things that Mr. Barber has said; if I look at it with a jaundiced eye, I can see communist behind every curtain.’”

The story goes on to report how Justice — to questionable effect — tried to quickly backtrack from the Barber-is-a-commie implication of her statement: Read More


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.


Moral MarchThere were lots of highlights at today’s Moral March on Raleigh:

  • the record crowd numbering in the tens of thousands that braved frigid temperatures and wintry weather predictions,
  • the impressive organization of the event itself that resulted in a shorter route, succinct speeches, and giant TV screens and loudspeakers for the thousands who couldn’t get close to the podium,
  • the amazing way in which participants flooded social media sites with running commentaries, photos and videos,
  • and, of course, Rev. William Barber’s inspiring grand finale speech,

to name just a few. But the coolest and most-inspiring moments for me (and I’m sure, many, many others) were the countless incidents Read More