LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Protest ‘Justice Sunday’

In the heart of the Bible belt, April 24, hundreds filled the Central Presbyterian Church under the banner of “Freedom and Faith” to condemn Republican Party efforts to hijack Christianity. The protest was sparked by the participation of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in a national TV broadcast by Christian right Focus on the Family aimed at forcing right-wing judges into the nation’s courts. Frist’s six-minute simulcast targeted Democrats for using the filibuster to block President Bush’s most extreme ultra-right judicial nominees.

Speakers spoke of a different kind of faith, including tolerance of all religions and beliefs and protecting separation of church and state.

“The monologue of the religious right is finally over and a new dialogue has begun,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, an evangelical Christian, editor of “Sojouners” and author of the best-selling book, “God’s Politics.” Defending the social gospel of Jesus which calls upon Christians to care for the poor, Wallis charged the Christian right with “religious offenses” in theological terms, such as “idolatry and blasphemy.”

Rev. Joe Phelps, a Baptist minister, criticized the “whining” of the religious right “when those in power hit an obstacle on their way to total domination.”

In an April 25 editorial, the Louisville Courier-Journal, the state’s largest newspaper, said, “It should be called, ‘Injustice Sunday: Demean the holy and foment a schism for partisan gain. At the rate things are going in American politics, next week will bring ads by the Noah’s Ark Veterans for Truth claiming that the two Democrats on board were actually stowaways.”

The following day, the paper carried this comment:

“Promoters of the ‘Justice Sunday’ sham doubtless hoped to build public support for their notion that the federal courts should be packed with judges predisposed to champion a particular set of religious values.

“One must hope that won’t be the case. Indeed, the proceedings should scare the, well, heck out of anyone who embraces the vision of America as a pluralistic democracy.”

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.: Police attack tent city

Videotape caught Santa Cruz and Berkeley police, in full riot gear, attacking a tent city set up by students to protest university fee increases and to express solidarity with campus workers. Police injured an estimated 80 students and arrested 19.

“Students had numerous bruises and contusions,” said one student. “My girlfriend caught a baton to the chest unprovoked.”

Austin Harless, 21, an organizer for Students Against War, said police arrived on campus April 18. About 80 students, who had studied nonviolent resistance, supported by another group of 150, fled to a large white tent called the Nome. Police surrounded the Nome and entered in groups of three or four.

The officers began applying pressure to protesters’ throats and pulling them up off the ground, Harless said.

“Police would push your hand down trying to fold it on yourself and twist it behind your back. That’s the most traumatizing thing I’ve ever been through in my life,” he said. “You have assumed notions about freedom and safety of the community and you see the police choking your friends.

ST. PAUL, Minn.: Stop CAFTA

Congress’ consideration of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) brought scores of members of the Blue Green Alliance to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s office, demanding the pact be stopped.

Holding up a sugar beet, Mark Froemke, a union leader who works at a sugar plant in northern Minnesota, said that the industry pumps $3 billion into the economy and provides 30,000 jobs. CAFTA, he charged would destroy families.

“The impact is as close as the songbirds we hear in the morning,” said Christopher Childs of the Sierra Club. CAFTA would eliminate environmental standards, thus destroying winter homes of 300 species of migrating birds.

Childs said CAFTA is “about production and profit and its backers are “not about people and God knows they’re not about the planet.”

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.: Protect public health, marchers say

A line of almost 100 marchers, some on foot, others on bikes, drew honks of support April 23, as they snaked their way through downtown to the Earth Action Fest here celebrating the 35th anniversary of Earth Day.

“Right now, we’re just trying to prove people still care about environment and want laws to be kept,” said Kaitlin Daniel, a junior at Chapel Hill High School. “If we take care of the environment, we’ll probably see a lot less health problems.”

In related news, the 750,000-member Sierra Club announced the results of a referendum to change their bylaws to call for restricting immigration. By a 5-1 margin, members voted to reject the anti-immigration measure. With 122,308 votes cast, it was the second largest turnout in Sierra Club history.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).