By Emily Bamforth
CLEVELAND — A group of 20 marched to the Q Monday morning to deliver a document urging politicians — including Donald Trump — to embrace a higher moral ground as dictated by the Constitution and holy texts.
The group didn’t get to deliver the hard copy, which detailed a political agenda encouraging workers’ rights and criminal justice reform, into the hands of Republican National Convention leaders. Instead, they got in the front door of the arena and were told to leave.
However, copies of the “Higher Ground Moral Agenda,” signed by more than 1,200 clergy members nationwide, were sent out before Monday’s press conference and march at the United Church of Christ in downtown Cleveland.
The agenda isn’t partisan; organizers will march before the Democratic National Convention organizers in Philadelphia in a few weeks.
Speakers avoided talking specifically about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during their remarks. When asked, the Rev. Traci Blackmon, acting executive minister of the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness ministries and agenda co-author, said people should avoid “scapegoating.”
“When we narrow the focus to Donald Trump… we let off the hook our personal responsibility,” she said, to murmurs of approval from members of the crowd.
An idea behind the declaration is that labeling issues as Republican or Democratic is damaging. Instead, people should look to ideas of justice when considering political agendas.
“We have been locked into a linguistic trap,” Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of Repairers of the Breach and coauthor of the agenda, said. “We believe that we’re liberal and conservative.”
The agenda addresses political points like criminal justice reform and expanding medical care.
The document declares addressing fairness in the criminal justice system and securing health care for all as “sacred” moral principles of faith and the constitution. Barber said the movement aims to de-politicize this issues.
“We’re critiquing,” he said. “(We say) Mr. Trump, and we’ll ask Hillary this later, where do you stand on the moral issues.”
The document cites excerpts from the Bible to support ideas of alleviating poverty, equality in education and securing rights for groups like immigrants and LGBT individuals.
The group is calling for action, not just prayers.
Though part of the action associated with signing the declaration is praying for the movement, Barber said the declaration details real political stances on which to base policy. The group will try to take the document to every candidate for president, Congress and governor.
Redmon said this was a chance for the faith community to stand up for morality in politics and start a revival.
“The faith community is complicit in this,” she said.
Eileen McCully of Orange was at the march from the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland, said it was “beside the point” that the group was told to leave the Q.
She said that the agenda is important because it discusses treating people equally, and takes stances against racism and xenophobia.
“I think it’s obvious our political debate has devolved into ugly and unproductive statements who we are as Americans,” she said.
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