Some Charlotte clergy have been getting arrested and they’re eager to tell you why.
In recent weeks, these Baptist, Presbyterian and Unitarian Universalist ministers have traveled to Raleigh to protest what they consider the General Assembly’s assault on the poor, teachers, minorities, and the unemployed.
They’ve joined hundreds of other dissidents – professors, doctors, lawyers, students, senior citizens – to sing, pray, chant, clog the halls of the Legislative Building and, in some cases, get arrested.
The state NAACP, which organizes the protests every Monday, dubbed them “Moral Mondays.”
So far, four Charlotte clergy have been arrested, though that number may grow on the Mondays to come.
Among the protesters who’ve been charged with second-degree trespassing and failure to disperse on command: The Revs. Peter Wherry, pastor of Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist; Rodney Sadler, associate professor at Union Presbyterian Seminary; Kojo Nantambu, pastor of Green Oak Missionary Baptist (and president of the local NAACP); and Robin Tanner, minister of Piedmont Unitarian Universalist.
Tanner, 29, who was arrested May 20, told me this was her first act of civil disobedience.
“I call it moral obedience,” she said. Acting on behalf of vulnerable people, she said, “is at the core of every religious tradition that I know of.”
She cited the Republican-run legislature’s decision to cut back unemployment benefits, refuse to accept more people on Medicaid (the federal health-care plan for the poor), and prohibit people without a photo ID from voting.
In the face of such action, Tanner said, “there’s a sense of powerlessness – what else can we do?”
She said it was “deeply humbling” to be arrested. As in: having your hands zip-tied behind you and then being searched, finger-printed and photographed.
She and other arrestees were bused to the Wake County Detention Center, where she remained for four hours.
Her court date is in July.
Yes, there was some fear, she said. “But then I remembered I wasn’t there for me.”
This week, Tanner blogged about her experience.
On Sunday (June 2), Tanner’s congregation will join with two other UU churches to support “Moral Mondays.” The service, featuring several speakers, is 6:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, 234 N. Sharon Amity Road. Its minister: the Rev. Jay Leach.
Then, on Monday (June 3), dozens of Charlotte-area UUs will travel to Raleigh for what’s being called “Mega-Moral Monday.”
And on June 10, Sadler (firstname.lastname@example.org) and others are organizing a “Moral Monday” in Raleigh that will feature hundreds of clergy from around the state. More than 40 Charlotte ministers have committed to joining that protest, he reported.
“This is really a non-partisan event,” said Sadler of Union Presbyterian Seminary, whose academic specialty is the Bible. “It’s these policies that are the problem.”
-- Tim Funk