Wednesday, February 19, 2014

North Carolina Moral March Brings Hope

North Carolina Moral March Brings Hope
A Justice Movement is Growing in the United States

Rev. Jimmie R. Hawkins (L) Reverend Joe Harvard (R)

Presbyterian pastors, lay people, and theologians were numbered among the estimated 30,000 to 80,000 persons who marched to the State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday, February 8th. The march was organized to call for well-funded public education, anti-poverty policies, affordable health care for all that includes the state expansion of Medicaid, an end to disparities in the criminal justice system on the basis of class and race, the expansion of voting rights, and equality for all persons under the law.

March on the State House
The protest is connected to the Moral Monday protests that began with an initial pray-in in the state Capitol last year. Several members of the clergy were arrested, citing their opposition to the actions of the newly elected members of the North Carolina state legislature who voted to cut teacher pay and sharply changed the course of politics in the state. The NC Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by a Reverend Dr. William Barber, led the organizing for protest at the State House and the annual HK on J March (Historic Thousands on Jones Street), known widely this year as the Moral March on Raleigh. 

A call for national justice leaders and others to join the March was issued nationwide.  The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness, joined the marchers after conversations with Barber and local Presbyterian participants.  Nelson had also visited a Moral Monday march held in Asheville, North Carolina in July, 2013. Of his participation in the march, he said,

Rev. Merili Douglas with J. Herbert Nelson
“It is important that Presbyterians who are engaged in justice advocacy feel supported in their efforts to witness on behalf of the poor. Our bible reminds us that we who know Jesus Christ have a responsibility to embrace those whose lives are most impacted by unjust policies and immoral laws. It is important that the Office of Public Witness be in solidarity in local communities where our Pastors, lay people and others are calling for moral and ethical treatment of suffering people."