The Moral Challenge Bernie Sanders Brought to the House Falwell Built


Author:Issah J. Poole

Emphasis Mine

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday went to a pillar of the religious right – Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. – to make the case that fighting for economic justice is as moral an undertaking as such cornerstone issues for Christian conservatives as opposing abortion.

“It would, I think, be hard for anyone in this room to make the case that the United States today is a just society or anything close to a just society,” he said in his speech to packed convocation at the school founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, known for forming the Moral Majority political organization and leading its fervent crusades against gay rights, reproductive choice and other progressive positions on social issues. “There is no justice when the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. There is no justice when all over this country people are working longer hours for lower wages, while 58 percent of all new income goes to the top 1 percent.”

Nor is there justice, he said, when “low-income and working-class mothers are forced to be separated from their new babies one or two weeks after giving birth” because “the United States is the only major country on earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave,” or when “thousands of people in this country die each year because they don’t have health insurance and don’t get to a doctor when they should.”

I am not a theologian or an expert on the Bible or a Catholic,” he said at one point. “I am just a U.S. senator from the small state of Vermont. But I agree with Pope Francis when he says, ‘The current financial crisis… originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.’”

Sanders early in his address quoted the words of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Matthew (as rendered in the New International Version, a Bible translation popular with conservatives): “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” He closed with a challenge to students seeking to discern how to apply that scripture and other themes of the Gospel to their political engagement: “I would hope very much that as part of that discussion and part of that learning process, some of you will conclude that, if we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people, and when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm.”

In a question-and-answer session afterward, Liberty University Vice President for Spiritual Development David Nasser sought to show common ground with Sanders on making eradicating the vestiges of racism and racial inequality from the society a top priority. But when Nasser quoted presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in saying that racism “is a sin problem, not a skin problem,” Sanders reminded him that it took a Supreme Court, a civil rights movement and “public policy” to end segregation and lay the groundwork for improved race relations.

Sanders also challenged people who fight for “the protection of the unborn” to join him in the fight against threats to the already-born as a result of budget decisions being made by Republicans in Congress, such as proposals that he said would cause 27 million people to lose access to health care, cut billions of dollars in foods assistance to low-income families and cut funding for college aid for low-income students by $90 billion – while giving $250 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years to the top 0.2 percent of wealth holders.

“I don’t think that’s a moral budget,” he said.


Action! ACLU Conference July 30-31 Columbus

Reporting from ACTION! – a Conference for Civil Libertarians.
Friday 30 July 2010.
Reception, welcome addresses from Chris Link and Susan Becker: grapes, gripes, recognition, reunion, conversation, and canopies.
Saturday 31 July 2010.
Opening Plenary by Ethan Nadelmann: Drug policy reform.
“Absent harm to others, it is no one else’s concern what I put in my body.”

He is a very dynamic, wake us up in the AM speaker,  who is dedicated to his cause: End the Failed War on Drugs.
Session: “Let’s talk about Choice ” – Louise Melling.
A woman has a right to have a child on her own terms: if women have control over having children, they may participate more fully in all other aspects of life.
She is attractive, charming, energetic, and informative – good session, which motivated me to stay on message for Choice.
Session: Mecca Meets Main Street: The changing face of religious liberty -Richard Saphire, Zeinab, and Jennifer Nimer.
Discussion of the religion clauses of the first amendment: Establishment, and Free expression, in the context of the growing number of Islamics in the USA, and how we can accommodate their particular needs.
Credible, well organized and informative speakers.
N.B.: The absence of Separation of Church and State – which has been so insipid in the past three Republican administrations – has impacted us in: AIDS treatment; GLBT rights; Reproductive Choice; stem cell, and all scientific, research; gender parity; respect for all belief (or not) systems; international standing; and perhaps was complicit in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Amy Goodman – Luncheon Keynote Speaker.  Update on WikiLeaks – a secure platform for whistle blowers – reporting the truth on violence in Iraq, and on the suppression of reporting of the demonstrations at the 2008 GOP Convention.
Covering Power rather than Covering For Power.

Another dynamic and motivating speaker.
Session: Technology and Privacy –  Craig Jaquith, Katherine Hunt Federle, and Jackie Ford.
Current issues on modern technology and old legal issues.  Issues of who owns what, and privacy expectations: well organized, well delivered, entertaining, and informative.
Sessions: Citizens United – Scott Greenwood, Daniel P. Tokaji, and Terri Enns.
A high point of the conference, featuring two gifted young lawyers, covering one of the key  decisions of the current Supreme Court.
Scott Greenwood – who has consistently been named among the best lawyers in America for 15 years – argued in favor of the decision, and Daniel Tokaji – an associate professor of Law at OSU – is a noted civil rights and election lawyer who argued against the decision.
The Case was the Federal Elections Commission vs. Citizens United, on a ‘documentary’ which was a ‘hit job’ on Hillary Clinton.  Scott said it was a victory for Free Speech, and did not authorize donations for corporations.  He observed that corporations wield influence through lobbying and bundled donations, and that in the twenty first century, radio, TV, and print are not the only media.  (The Obama campaign depended on the Internet.)  Post Citizens, there are many different proposals.
Stated that this was not a victory for Free Speech, but was an out lier.  Can rich and poor compete as equals?  Is money speech? Is equality a  Constitutional value?  He observed that the wealth gap has created a donor class, and that politics – like business – does not function well when unregulated.
A knowledgeable, well informed member of the audience asked about the issue of ‘Corporate Person hood’. Both men replied enthusiastically. Daniel stating that speech rights are the larger issue, and Scott that this is an 800 lb gorilla in the room.  An issue is: did this expand the power of non-people?
There is not a fixed amount of free speech; money for candidates is to effect policy, not merely the outcome of the election; and the question of corporate honesty is at hand.
N.B.: If only public money could be used for elections, this would not be an issue.
Another Viewpoint:
A worthwhile, valuable, expansive experience.
Charles Pervo 1 August 2010 CE.