Moral Mondays: Religious Progressives Protest North Carolina Policies

Almost every Monday since late April, hundreds of protestors have gathered in Raleigh to oppose the state’s budget cuts to unemployment benefits, healthcare funding, education, and other social benefits.

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Gerry Broome / AP

Demonstrators and NAACP-led supporters are arrested during an act of civil disobedience opposing the Republican legislature's agenda congregate at Halifax Mall outside the House and Senate chambers during "Moral Monday" protests at the General Assembly in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, June 24, 2013.

Almost every Monday since late April, hundreds of protestors have gathered at the North Carolina General Assembly in Raleigh to oppose the state’s budget cuts to unemployment benefits, healthcare funding, education, and other social benefits. Today, July 1, the “Moral Mondays” protest may break records: Thousands of people are expected, as it is the first Monday since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned parts of the Voting Rights Act and the day that some of the most severe state cuts go into effect.

Nearly 600 people have been arrested for civil disobedience in the Moral Mondays protests since they started on April 29. Last week’s protest alone drew 3,000 people, and 120 people were arrested. The protestors range from ministers to a 60-year-old seventh-grade teacher to college students to a Duke University historian. Baptist churches host worship and prayer services before the protests begin, and regional Christian radio stations are starting to cover the protests.

Moral Monday protestors are liberal in bent, unhappy with the conservative policies their Republican-controlled legislature has enacted so far this year. A new law goes into effect Monday that pulls extended unemployment benefits from over 70,000 North Carolinians. The legislature opted out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision that would have covered an additional 500,000 people, and repealed the state’s earned income tax credit, which will now expire at the end of this year. It also appealed the Racial Justice Act, which allowed people on death row to argue that racial bias influenced their trial.

State Republican leaders have largely dismissed the Moral Mondays. Governor Pat McCrory waited five weeks before commenting about them, and then stated that he is not interested in meeting with the group, whom he called “outsiders” who were trying “to do to us what they did to Scott Walker in Wisconsin.” Republican State Senator Thom Goolsby dubbed the protests “Moron Mondays” in an op-ed for the Chatham Journal. He later said he was just joking. Police records indicate that 98% of people arrested are actually from North Carolina.

The man behind the Moral Mondays movement, Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP and a Disciples of Christ minister, says he is undeterred.  The Moral Mondays are the result of seven years of progressive organizing for a new Southern ‘fusion politics’—a new multi-ethnic, multi-religious coalition with an anti-racist, anti-poverty agenda. Their goal, he continues, is “to directly attack the old divisions of the white southern strategy and what we believe were the shortcomings of the so-called Christian evangelical right that limits issues in the public square to things like prayer in school, abortion, and gender issues.”

His goals are bigger than just changing policies and looking toward the 2014 election. Barber believes the South is in the middle of what he calls the “third reconstruction.” Changing demographics in America, and state battles over voting rights laws, he claims, echo both the first reconstruction, which was voting rights for African Americans after the civil war, and the second reconstruction, which was the Civil Rights movement. A new southern strategy must, he says, be “rooted in the idea of the deep moral issues about faith, our constitution, anti-racism, anti-poverty, that can break open the solid south and put holes in it so that we expand the electorate, we expand the discourse, we destroy the myth that when you hurt entitlements you only hurt certain folk.”

Barber, 49, sees North Carolina as a necessary test case. Republicans won both houses of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in more than a century, and the state that swung from President Obama in 2008 to Mitt Romney in 2012. “[Republicans] believe if they can get away with this in a progressive, southern state, then it pours water on the aspirations of the rest of the southern states,” Barber says. Barber has a masters degree from Duke Divinity School and a doctorate in Public Policy and Pastoral Care from Drew University, and he worked on Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign.

Local Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and United Methodist leaders issued a joint statement in early June supporting the Moral Mondays purpose, if not their means of civil disobedience. Their concern, the faith leaders explain, is “not an act of political partisanship”—instead “it is a matter of faith with respect to our understanding of the biblical teachings and imperatives to protect the poor, respect the stranger, care for widows and children and love our neighbors (Isaiah 10:1‐2, Hebrews 13:2, James 1:27, Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:14).”

38 comments
ConstitutionLo1
ConstitutionLo1

"it is a matter of faith with respect to our understanding of the biblical teachings and imperatives to protect the poor, respect the stranger, care for widows and children and love our neighbors."

God gave us free will to help each other. That is what we are each individually tasked to do. When a huge powerful government forces you to give to them so that it is given to the poor, we are robbed of the opportunity to do that. God never said to elect leaders to live like kings and tax the people more so they could hand out more and create a system that is easy to abuse.

God also wouldn't support taking away struggle or consequences for poor choices. When life is made too easy for people, they are not challenged. Name any great feat that has been accomplished and if you look into it's background, you will see struggle and failure leading up to it. Take away that struggle and you take away a person's ability to see how strong they can be.

I am not a bible thumper by any stretch of the imagination, but I know the basics and that is not what is being supported by these protests. I can go through the 10 commandments and give an example of how these misguided protestors support breaking every one of them - not exactly biblical.

Randolph
Randolph

I am still not able to figure out how President Barack Obama actually , for example, has plenty of time to worry about Syrian people and has the power to call out their president to step down for mistreating his own people.Meanwhile, he is apparently not paying attention to millions of American citizens being intentionally denied income and health insurance by US governor, which is a life threatening situation. If he can call out a head of a foreign country to step down for mistreating his own people, I don’t understand how he doesn’t have any power to call out an American state governor to step down for mistreating his/her own people, especially when it is about federal money. I thought that the US President has a constitutional duty to protect American citizen lives from any life threatening action, extern or intern, and it should not matter if such action comes from a state governor.

Furthermore, I have to ask why our elected officials have to be in war against us who elected them to lead us. Could they be in front of a mirror and God and ask themselves why they have to mistreat us and put our lives fatal situation? What they would gain by doing so to innocent people.

Randolph
Randolph

I don’t think that being elected in office also gives you a constitutional right to intentionally endanger other people lives, and I am sure President Abraham Lincoln would have agreed with me. Otherwise, he would have let South governors and their entourages to keep doing heartless things they were doing against a category of people. He didn’t go to Court to sue them and waiting what the Court would have decided, but he just took strong action to protect people. Even in Egypt, they didn’t let their democratically elected leaders to abuse power and do bad thing that was in their mind.I personally do not see a big difference between putting a large group of targeted people in a big chamber full of toxic gas and denying those people health insurance and unemployment insurance. Both actions would eventually have the very same result, although in the first situation death would come much faster. Those people, just elected in NC, should know that it is almost impossible to any human being to survive without any type of income and health insurance because clinics don’t anymore accept patient without insurance. You cannot pretend to save a budged by putting your own people in life threatening situation. Maybe President Abraham Lincoln needs to come back and fix the situation again.

mydads1st
mydads1st

Bigotry and prejudice has raised it's ugly head since Obama severely thumped McCain-Palin and Romney-Ryan! The TEA-Republican parties in charge in regional and states have corrupted the once proud Republican party. Talk or blogs is cheap - it's going to take real effort and boots on the ground to get the lazy Democrats and their minions to the ballot box! Bear in mind it will take a concerted effort to bring women, blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and other oppressed people of color to the voting booth to clean out the combative and divisive elements in every locality, state and nationally. Are you personally willing to get out and get out the vote?  Get registered and get even - Vote- get out the vote! Repeat often every election cycle! Let's take North Carolina BLUE! The 2014 Mid-term is a-coming! As is 2016, and 2018! V.O.T.E.(Vote Out The Encumberance)

SherrySiddall
SherrySiddall

Fix that typo in the third paragraph.  The legislature repealed the Racial Justice Act as well as the earned income tax credit.  Wish it were only "appealed".

SandraHeskethHowerton
SandraHeskethHowerton

I would just like to point out that although the tone of Moral Monday has been overtly religious and doubtless most of the participants are religious, there have also been many secular protestors who are freethinkers, humanists, agnostics, atheists, or other non-theists.  One does not have to be religious to be moral or to know that what the GOP is doing is bad for the people and state of North Carolina.  I think the Moral Monday movement would have even more participation from the secular community if its leaders would make the nontheists feel included by toning down some of the religiosity and focusing on the political, humanitarian goals that all participants--religious and nonreligious--share.

TechTeacher
TechTeacher

As a North Carolinian and Teacher, I am in constant fear that my state government will destroy the intellectual community that has been our pride.  I know that I will not get a bump in salary, yet I am still taking graduate courses to make sure my students can compete on a global stage.  I know I will not get even a 1 % raise anytime soon (it's been 5 years already), but I continue to work as a teacher, coach, webmaster, title 1 coordinator...to the tune of 60 hours a week.  I know that as a woman, I will be judged for something I cannot change.  And yet, I know that in time, WE SHALL OVERCOME!

jmac
jmac

Religious leaders standing up for the poor.   What would Jesus say?

Is Huckabee going to announce that he wept?  

nostory
nostory

A few weeks ago Barber, as president of the NC NAACP would have been granted an interview with any legislator he wanted. Instead he goes to the newspapers and calls all Republican legislators 'immoral'. With insults like that he has been written off as a media-grabbing fraud. He does not seem interested in actually persuading elected officials to listen to his point of view. So he stands outside the building yelling at the legislators who are meeting inside. Barber is an odd bird. He peppers his statements with bizarre racial accusations, talks about Reconstruction and politics in the 1800s as though it were recent events. Then he demands to meet with the Governor. The local newspaper is pushing the story to sell papers; other media outlets give minimal coverage.

Presidents of NAACP should be encouraging people to work hard, stay in school, stay out of trouble. Barber tells people to leave their jobs, leave school  and go get arrested. An arrest stays on someone's employment record making it difficult to get a job. No employer wants to hire someone who takes off work to get arrested - no matter what the cause. Barber is not a leader.

JumpThatGun
JumpThatGun

I would be less reluctant to get behind the movement if it were not involved with the NAACP.

bazelter
bazelter

Thanks for covering our NC story.  I am an elder white woman arrested with Rev. Barber in the first group of 17.  As a former nonprofit executive director, policy analyst, community organizer, editor, and mother of 3 NC-bred children, I decided to do civil disobedience because our state has been taken over by the religious right, Reagan-era supply siders, who seem to be fighting the last fight for white supremacy (I am white) as our culture becomes more brown.  This is indeed, as Rev. Barber says, the Third Reconstruction.  


mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

The American Taliban is alive and well in NC. The State GOP legislature would make any Banana Republic proud.

notsacredh
notsacredh

"State Republican leaders have largely dismissed the Moral Mondays. Governor Pat McCrory waited five weeks before commenting about them, and then stated that he is not interested in meeting with the group, whom he called “outsiders” who were trying “to do to us what they did to Scott Walker in Wisconsin.” Republican State Senator Thom Goolsby dubbed the protests “Moron Mondays” in an op-ed for the Chatham Journal. He later said he was just joking. Police records indicate that 98% of people arrested are actually from North Carolina."

Their own citizens are outsiders? They have been made to feel that way.



 

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

I find it fascinating how much the left/right divide in America fails to conform to any possible set of principles. The people who declare themselves pro-life are the exact same group that labels themselves pro-war. The ones who declare themselves pro-freedom are exactly the same ones who try to control the sex-lives of people they don't know. To many people the "Christian Left" is an oxymoron. It's refreshing to see that they're quite mistaken.

Speaking of which, here's a link to my personal favorite Christian Leftist.

http://howardlytle.blogspot.com/

aka my Grandfather.


janine.maves
janine.maves

@SandraHeskethHowerton This is so true.  I've met a few other secular people at Monday rallies who are uneasy about the majority of speakers being clergymen, and the hymn singing.  The movement started out as "Forward Together."  The name "Moral Mondays" grew out of this and has been accepted.  The non-religious of us tell ourselves that since the movement was begun and is well-organized by the NAACP, the religious overtones are natural.  But it is a struggle for those of us living in the Bible belt to show that non-religious people can also have a strong sense of morality.  We just call it humanism.

Sue_N
Sue_N

@jmac Jesus weeps every time Huckabee opens his mouth.

janine.maves
janine.maves

@nostory Dr. Barber and others who are worried about the fact that our legislature seems to have been taken over by ALEC have repeatedly requested meetings with legislators.  We have been called outside agitators and morons by members of the legislature, and they repeatedly duck out of meeting with us.  Our leaders seem to think that unemployed North Carolinians are lazy and haven't seriously sought employment.  We have asked to meet with our representatives frequently, before Monday rallies even began.  As far as I know, no one in the NAACP has advised anyone to leave their jobs or schools. 

Dondoh
Dondoh

@nostory 
"Presidents of NAACP should be encouraging people to work hard, stay in school, stay out of trouble. Barber tells people to leave their jobs, leave school  and go get arrested. "
I've heard Rev. Barber speak on many occasions. I've never heard him encourage anyone to leave work or school. Quite the contrary, he's an eloquent spokesman for the dignity and value of work and for the fact that the right to a quality education for all our kids is one of the greatest duties we have as a society.

Nostory, come to think of it, your last paragraph reads like a wish list of talking points from the Civitas Institute (an advocacy group funded by NC's little Koch brother (and now, remarkably in the bizarro world of NC politics, our appointed budget director , Art Pope. To those who don't know him, this is like putting Jeffrey Skilling in charge of the SEC)). Distortions, derision, threats and fear - an attempt to scare people from exercising their constitutional right to assemble and "instruct" their legislators by veiled threats to their future employment possibilities. I'd hire someone who took a principled stand against having our government bought by both inside and outside forces any day.

I suspect you are on Art Pope's enormous payroll. If not, you certainly have swallowed his programming, hook line and sinker.

Me? I want my state to have the best public education system that we can. I want EVERYONE (this includes you) to vote without being impeded by voting restrictions or gerrymandering. I want my state tax dollars to go toward alleviating the suffering of "the least of these" rather than feathering the nests of the wealthy and "outsider" corporations who have bought and paid for the current legislature who seem illiterate in that they can't write a bill without the help of the American Legislative Exchange Council. (look it up America, they're remaking a government near you). 

Nostory, you distort the words of Mr. Barber, the actions of the leadership of NC (who have not been welcoming, AT ALL, to the protesters but rather dismissive and mocking) and you close with veiled threats. Well done sir. Collect your check.




SharonUp
SharonUp

@nostory Huh, from your comments it's pretty clear you haven't heard him speak.  The protests are very positive. Interesting that you find the word moral insulting particularly when Goolsby calls them "Moron Mondays.  A few weeks ago Barber asked for meetings with legislators.  I think Pat preferred to play football.  

roknsteve
roknsteve

@nostory You must be a member of the religious right who wants to cut everything and snoop in everybody's bedroom.  Change your avatar "Nosy."

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@JumpThatGun And I may be more interested in what the Tea Party had to say if you weren't bought and paid for by the Koch Brothers and Big Tobacco.

cent-fan
cent-fan

@sacredh The North Carolinians ought to realize that far from being a unified left wing entity, the Big Brother government they should fear and that comes closest to the "1984" reality is the conservatively bent conformists that are determined shape society into the image in their mind, even if all practical reality doesn't connect with it.  They are the regional Taliban. 

MrObvious
MrObvious

@sacredh 

'Wingers think they have cornered the market on morals; something about gay bad, abortion terrible and whatever other phobia Christ spent about nuthin' talking about. But money is awesome and so is legislatin' someone uterus.

janine.maves
janine.maves

@nostoryBy the way, anyone who leaves a comment, even a respectful comment, on NC politicians' websites will find their comments deleted within the hour.

gostarsmeister
gostarsmeister

@Dondoh @nostory 

As an addition, Civitas Institute was founded by Art Pope who was appointed by the Governor McCroy to be his state budget director.

The Civitas Institute has published on their web sites photos of all those arrested for civil disobedience on Moral Mondays along with the city of their residence, and who they work for.  The implication being that the business community is being invited to fire any malcontents who should dare to express their political opinions in this "right to work state" which is synonymous with "right to fire state."

North Carolina is the test case for the extreme right wing agenda which includes a flat tax, total exemption of all inheritance taxes, elimination of all corporate taxes, phasing out of public education with replacement by private/religious education, raising regressive sales taxes, taxing social security and all retirement benefits, and introduction of generous business tax credits.  The idea being that if the wealthy aristocracy becomes wealthy enough then even the serfs will benefit. 

Their goal is to retain power through aggressive redistricting (not that democrats haven't done the same in the past), voter suppression by eliminating early voting, same day registration, and introducing mandatory ID requirements for voting.  All of these measures are intended to discourage the wrong type of voters showing up to cast ballots.


MichaelHilton
MichaelHilton

@SharonUp @nostory

I haven't been in the state, but following these developments pretty closely over the web.  From what I have gathered Sharon is right, Republican leaders in the NC government refused to meet with the now leaders of the Moral Monday protests.  

Sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/12/us/weekly-protests-in-north-carolina-challenge-conservative-shift-in-state-politics.html ("Governor McCrory, who declined a request for an interview, told reporters last week that outsiders were stirring things up and that he would not meet with Moral Monday leaders. He called for an end to what he said were illegal assemblies."); http://80pct.com.s3.amazonaws.com/eps-research/MoralMonday.pdf ("The North Carolina Chapter of the NAACP led attempts to communicate these concerns with Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leadership in late April, but, in the words of Rev. William Barber, NC NAACP President, 'Once they refused to meet and refused to stop their destructive campaign, we had no choice but to commit our constitutional responsibility to instruct our legislators by engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience.'”)

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@veronicadiall I have. Which is how I realized that the GOP no longer cares about anything other than staying in power and telling women when they can and can't have kids.

janine.maves
janine.maves

@cent-fan @sacredh North Carolinia is in the south, but even those of us with southern accents are educated and aware of what's going on in local and national politics.  Anyone, north or south, can attest to the fact that building "a unified left wing entity" has never worked out. 

notsacredh
notsacredh

Watching them self-destruct has become one of my favorite hobbies.

GraceSammartinoDePaolo
GraceSammartinoDePaolo

@sacredh 

I love your post. More and more people are beginning to see the greed. They will phase out eventually if they "don't change the record".

Sue_N
Sue_N

@sacredh I only wish they weren't so bent on taking as many innocents down with them when they go.