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tv   Religion Ethics Newsweekly  PBS  August 25, 2013 10:00am-10:31am PDT

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coming up, 50 years after dr. king's historic speech in washington, kim lawton reports on an interfaith effort at reconciliation in the community torn by the trayvon martin tragedy. >> how do you judge the content of a person's character? >> and from north carolina, lucky severson has the story of a protest movement called moral monday. >> forward together, not one
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step back! >> immore monday is a term i have used, and i do believe it is true. major funding for "religion and ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private family foundation dedicated to its founders' interest in religion, community development, and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. and the corporation for public broadcasting. welcome. i'm fred de sam lazaro sitting in for bob be aer thety. thank you for joining us. religion groups are among those marking the 50th anniversary of the march on washington with a series of events held throughout the country. at an interfaith service at the mount airy baptist church in washington, a diverse group of clergy said they must continue
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to fight inequality. >> we will never be satisfied with the injustice of our land. we will never be complacent until all have equal rights. >> through the work of our hands this week and beyond shall we pass that light from hand to hand, from heart to heart until the radiance of the promised land of peace and righteousness for all god's children shines to the very ends of the earth. >> speakers voiced concern over poverty, voting rights, and immigration. organizer reverend barbara williams-skinner described the anniversary as a call to action. >> faith by itself is dead apart from the action that would transform a hurting society. that's what i think the church needs. just to examine itself, get out of the four walls. >> kim lawton will have more on the anniversary coming up later in the program. in other news, this week saw a grim escalation in the conflict in syria.
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the opposition there alleged government forces had used chemical weapons, killing hundreds, including women and children. the u.s. and others called for a u.n. investigation with france's foreign minister suggesting the use of force if the allegations are confirmed. a u.n. team is in syria to investigate previous allegations of chemical weapons use, but it's not certain they'll be allowed to look into the newest ones, which the government denies. syria's chief international ally, russia, after earlier suggesting the attack was staged by opposition forces, joined the call for an international investigation. meanwhile, from egypt come reports of growing sectarian violence. the international group human rights watch criticized authorities for not protecting dozens of churches, schools, and businesses h recently been attacked in the coptic christian community. those christians make up about 10% of predominantly islamic egypt. at the same time, a leader of the coptic church urged sor of
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egypt's military, which continued its clamp down on supporters of the muslim brotherhood and deposed president morsi. the united nations top human rights official this week urged the united states and israel to provide a legal justification for the use of armed drones in pakistan, yemen, and gaza. the u.n.'s navi pillay called drone strikes a threat to civilian populations and said the current lack of transparency surrounding their use creates a, quote, accountability vacuum. more than 30 hindus died this week after being struck by a train traveling at high speed while on a pilgrimage in eastern india. earlier this summer several thousand pilgrims drowned in massive flooding while visiting a sacred area in the country's north. now, back to events in the nation's capital on the 50th anniversary of the march on
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washington. that event may have led to historic civil rights legislation, but many veterans of the rights movement say the dream in dr. king's iconic speech is far from realized. one recent example they point to is the trayvon martin tragedy in sanford, florida. from that community, kim lawton reports on a clergy-led interfaith effort at reconciliation. >> on that august day an estimated quarter of a million people gathered to support a vision for america outlined in martin luther king, jr.'s soaring sermon-like rhetoric. quoting from scripture, king said he dreamed of the day when all god's children, black, white, jews, gentiles, protestants, and catholics, would be able to join hands in freedom. half a century later, many believe that day has not yet fully arrived. reverend vincent harding is a scholar and activist who worked closely with king. >> king himself continued to move. he didn't get down from the
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podium in 1963 and then say, well, we've made the speed, we've made the march, thank you very much, we'll see you in 50 years. the question for us now on the 50th anniversary of the march on washington is what is the work that has to be done that hasn't been done? >> harding and other civil rights leaders say the trayvon martin case and the intense reactions to it show some of the work that still needs to be done. racial tensions flared after neighborhood watch volunteer george zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old martin last year in a gated community in sanford, florida, outside orlando. martin was unarmed and wearing a hoodie. there were more protests after zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges in july. yet, while the case exposed ongoing racial divides, in some areas it has also generated
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opportunities for new conversations about race. that's the situation in sanford, where the tragedy took place. in the wake of the shooting, some local pastors, black and white, began meeting together to discuss the crisis. they formed a new group called sanford pastors connecting, which promised to promote racial reconciliation. they believe it's an outgrowth of king's vision that all god's children join hands. derrick gay, pastor ofominion international church and jeff krall, pastor of the family worship center assemblies of god church are helping to lead the effort. >> this particular shooting, it happens everywhere in this country, but for some reason this one was highlighted, and i believe by the hand of the lord that, hey, look, let's make -- this is going to be different. we saw pastors come out of the woodwork who normally would never get together, and i've said this before, it's in some respects, we were almost shamed into action. >> almost two months after the
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shooting, pastors from different races and denominations held a press conference and pledged unity. they said they would be praying for both the martin and zimmerman families. >> we don't stand in a position where we're going to take sides for black or white. we're going stand on the side of justice. >> during the zimmerman trial, members of the group were in the courtroom praying for the proceedings. but they say their most important work was behind closed doors in a series of meetings where they got to know one another. >> pastors, both black and white, have said, you know what? forget about our denominational differences, forget about our racial differences, forget about even some of the things that we were born into. how about we develop relationship? you learn more about me, i learn more about you, and we can develop a relationship over the long haul. >> the pastors began talking openly with each other about their backgrounds, their resentments, and their fears. >> very hard conversations to have. you know, in the past i think there wasn't enough grace for one another.
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someone would express their issue or problem, and the other side would go, oh, there you go again, and people would take their ball and bat and go home. what was different about this, and it goes back to that spiritual environment that changed here, is when people were sharing very difficult things about hurt, people stayed in the room. >> and as you get them into the same room, people hear the hearts of others, and as they hear their heart, then we're able to then talk about those things, then we're able to discuss those things, and we really see, as i said, it opens the door for healing to take place. >> the pastors here say they are committed to the work because they believe it comes out of their christian theology. >> god reconciled himself to sinful man through his son jesus, so he's given us the ministry of reconciliation, and so any opportunity we can to build bridges and be peacemakers, i think that's part of our mon dait.
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admittedly, the church has fallen short on this task. >> close relationships across racial lines are still not all that common. according to a new routers/ipsos poll, about 40% of white americans and 25% of nonwhite americans say they are surrounded exclusively by friends of their own race. when the circle was widened to include co-workers, about 30% of americans say they do not regularly mix with people from a different race. >> churches have a great opportunity and a great responsibility to find the ways to bring us together, not just to worship, quote, together, but to live together. >> vincent harding believes americans need to take a deeper look at one of the iconic lines from king's march on washington speech, when he said he dreamed that his children would one day live in a nation where they would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
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>> how do you judge the content of a person's character? can you do that without coming in some way to know them, to open yourself to them in some intimate, compassionate, caring way? because unless there is that, they are not going to reveal their real character to you. >> without relationships, he says, injustice and violence will continue. >> if we're going to let color and class keep us from being with each other, then we'll never know the content of each other's character, and we will assume that somebody with a hoodie is a bad character and we have the right to chase him down. >> the pastors in sanford say
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they're trying to build relationships that will overcome misunderstanding. >> to see two men that don't like each other, one black, one white or hispanic or whoever they might be, to see them now link hands and some together, for me is the greatest miracle and is a testament to the work that dr. king did. >> that's right. >> pastors here have been meeting one-on-one, doing pulpit exchanges, joint congregation projects, and preaching about race and reconciliation. now, they're starting to branch out beyond their own community. car misra media, which is based nearby, put together a short film about the work in sanford, to distribute to churches. >> it's a story of how christians and the church have responded to this terrible tragedy and to racism in our area. >> and leaders here are helping to facilitate similar
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interracial initiatives for pastors in other parts of the country. >> it's just not the dutiful thing of we should reconcile, which is an important thing. but on the other side of it, there's richness, there's relationships, there's -- there's like, man, i have been living my life without you in my life? i feel like i've been robbed. there is a richness to this nation and to what we can have with one another that we've missed out on. we really have. >> harding says as the nation remembers the march on washington, he hopes new relationships and new conversations will lead to new actions for justice. >> that anniversary that we celebrate is not the anniversary of a speech, but the anniversary of a very important paint in history when black people were leading a movement to expand democracy, to deepen democracy, and to make democracy more faithful to its own sayings.
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>> he says it's a movement that people of all races continue today. and he believes, as king believed, that faith communities must play a key role. i'm kim lawton in sanford, florida. faith groups are ramping up pressure on congress to pass immigration reform. in early september, catholic priests and bishops around the country will deliver ser mons on immigration as part of a larger effort to persuade catholic lawmakers to support an immigration bill. meanwhile, some christian activists in california are marching for 21 days on what they call a pilgrimage for citizenship. a group of prominent evangelical protestants is now running radio ads aimed at more than 50 mainly conservative house members who rejected an immigration bill approved by the senate. new jersey governor chris christie signed a bill this week banning conversion therapy, a controversial practice that tries to change people's sexual orientation from gay to
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straight. christie, a catholic, says he does not believe homosexuality is a sin. a conservative christian legal group plans to sue, saying the law infringes on religious freedom. last year california became the first state to outlaw conversion therapy, but legal challenges have prevented the law from going into effect. the largest group of u.s. catholic nuns this week said they were hopeful about reaching a resolution with the vatican after last year's controversial crackdown on the group. the vatican accused the leadership conference of women religious of serious doctrinal problems and appointed three bishops to oversee major reforms. the sisters met with one of the bishops last week. they described the meeting as, quote, a rich and deeply reverent conversation but said they are still uncertain about how their work with the bishops will proceed. north carolina used to straddle the political fence. it voted for president obama in 2008, for example.
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more recently, however, the political winds have shifted, leading to the enactment of several conservative-backed laws. that's drawn a protest movement led by a number of faith leaders who say the new laws favor the wealthy and are especially harsh on the poor. the state's republican legislature and governor have their own clerical backers, however. lucker severson has our report. >> these people are angry at the north carolina legislature. this was the 13th week they've gathered outside and inside the general assembly for what organizers call moral monday protests. so far, 925 citizens have been arrested, even some in wheelchairs. >> forward together, not one step back. >> at first the crowds were small, but each monday they got bigger as the republican legislature approved what the people here view as an extremely unjust budget and far-right social agenda.
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george reed heads the north carolina council of churches. >> you might get your breath taken away for varying reasons but i think just about everybody would agree it's a breathtaking session. >> the republican governor said they were outagitators. >> it is a fiction that outside agitators have had anything significant to do with this. the people who are protesting and present on moral monday are citizensf the state of north carolina with a few exceptions. >> the reverend michael curry is a bishop of the episcopal diocese of north carolina. >> if you look at the state budget and you look at the weight of the tax reform, it is heavily weighted to the wealthy and, to be sure, to the corporations. and the working poor are the ones who are bearing the brunt of the burden. >> not everyone agrees. tammy fitsgerald runs the north carolina values coalition. >> immoral monday is a term i have used, and i do believe it is true because i think that the issue that is the crowds out there every monday night are fighting for and protesting for
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are basically immoral positions. >> she thinks the protesters are a small minority, out of the mainstream against a legislature that's behaving prudently. >> the question is whether you want the government to take care of people who have needs or whether you want private citizens and the church to do that, and it's a diabolical split in philosophy. >> politically, north carolina has been pretty evenly divided. obama won here in his first presidential election. but in 2010 the republicans for the first time since reconstruction won both houses in the general assembly. then they redrew the district lines making it easier to win even more conservative seats in 2012. now in complete control of the general assembly and the governor's mansion, the republicans have managed to push through a very conservative agenda. >> the state under new leadership has taken the approach that it's going to live on a balanced budget and try and control government spending and
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make government smaller so that people have more money to put in their wallets and more money to spend out in the economy. >> we have to balance our budget every year, it's a constitutional requirement. our budget was balanced. they've cut taxes which -- all the benefit is for wealthy people, or all the real benefit. >> tye hunter is with a group of protesters from the united church of christ in chapel hill who have all been arrested at the moral monday protests. >> they put a cap on the taxes you have to pay when you buy a yacht, and yet they're increasing taxes for other things that poor people have to pay every day. like mobile homes. >> legislators cut education across the board but added money for private and parochial school vouchers. they effectively disqualified more than 70,000 from unemployment benefits and even though it didn't come out of the state budget, blocked medicaid expansion that would have covered 500,000 north
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carolinians. >> who is on medicaid? the poorest of the poor. and so we literally in the state of north carolina are casting sick people out into the street, so to speak, and what's going to happen is our emergency rooms are going to fill up, and it's going to cost us more in the long run. >> congregation at the united church has become very involved in the protests. on this sunday several members march to the front to be blessed for their next protest. this is pastor richard edens. >> there's great biblical precedent for people being arrested. you find it all over the new testament. so it's a great heritage to be a part of. >> i was arrested on april 29th with the first group that went in. there were 17 of us who were arrested. >> pastor jimmie hawkins of the covenantresbyterian church says his congregation has been very supportive of the protests.
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>> we used to have a tax-free weekend for parents who have children going back to school. this is a group of legislators who the minute they were elected said they were going to cut your taxes and they eliminate that so ultimately they raised your taxes. >> but pastor patrick wooden of the 3,000 member upper room of god in christ church thinks the legislators did a great job. >> the way i view what the legislators are doing is they're providing or making an attempt to provide a business-friendly environment which is good for everyone. >> but if they thought a couple votes were going to turn us around, then they have another thought coming. >> moral monds was initiated by pastor richard barber, the head of the north carolina naacp. over the weeks the number of clergy who endorse the movement has grown considerably. leaders of the lutheran, presbyterian, episcopal, rowman catholic, and united methodist and jewish faiths signed a statement of support saying many
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of the new laws adversely impact the poor, aging, and children. >> my major disagreement is when men of the cloth are leading a protest and part of what they're protesting is the legislatures attempt to protect the rights of the unborn and to put a limit on the killing of the unborn. the legislature approved one of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation, and that pleases pastor wooden. >> we've lost more blacks to abortion than crime, violence, accidents, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes combined. >> the legislators also approved what may be the most restrictive voter law in the country. kirstin frescom is one of those who has been arrested. >> the voter suppression is just so wrong to me because we're in a democracy and, if anything, we should be encouraging and
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supporting voting, and anything that stops that is just wrong in a democracy. >> another new law further relaxes restrictions on guns. >> now you can have guns in parks and in public places and in various -- in bars. again, people from across the spectrum, people in the center, what i call the sensible center, are beginning to say, wait a minute, this has gone too far. >> they repealed the racial justice act, which was an act that looked at the issue of whether race played a role in our death penalty in north carolina. in fact, several people's sentences were changed from death to life on account of the racial justice act, and so this new legislature's response is, let's get rid of it. >> i think overall the general assembly have done a great job, and i appreciate the work that they're doing. >> but there are signs that the moral monday protests have been getting their message through to the general public.
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>> a lot of people are now paying attention, and you see that the governor's polls are going down, the polling for the state legislators is just in the bottom, and so i think people are starting to be more attenti attentive. so i'm looking ahead to 2014 when we can have new elections. >> legislators have finished their business and gone home for the season so the demonstrations are now moving to other north carolina cities and so far drawing big crowds. for "religion and ethics newsweekly" i'm lucky severson in raleigh, north carolina. >> moral monday organizers say they will hold rallies throughout north carolina on wednesday, the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. on our calendar this week, hindus celebrate the festival krishna janmashtami. it celebrates the birth of the popular deity krishna who is believed to be one of the incarnations of the good vishnu. that's our program for now. i'm fred de sam lazaro.
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you can follow us on twitter and facebook and watch us anytime on the pbs app for iphones and ipads and visit our website where there is more on our interview with vincent harding about the march on washington. audio and video pot casts of this program are also available. join us at as we leave you, music from the interfaith worship service held at the mount airy baptist church in washington, d.c., to mark the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. ♪ ♪
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♪ major funding for "religion and ethics newsweekly" is provided by the lilly endowment, an indianapolis based private family foundation dedicated to its founders' interest in religion, community development, and education. additional funding also provided by mutual of america, designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. and the corporation for public broadcasting.
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