NASHVILLE, Tenn. – This morning, Tennesseans from across the state gathered in Legislative Plaza before the start of the 2023 Legislative Session to call for a moral policy agenda that listens to the will of the people.

Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs, Pastor of Franklin Community Church, opened the press conference calling for a moral agenda saying, “As a Christian pastor, I find a simple definition of morality in the words of Jesus, ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,’ (Matthew 7:12). In my faith tradition we call these words The Golden Rule. We believe these words are the backbone of all morality and should be the backbone of all legislation. The powerful truth behind these words is found in every world religion.

“What would a moral agenda look like? First and foremost, a moral agenda would govern all people across our State, not just a selected few. Furthermore, a moral agenda is a people first agenda, not a positioning yourself first agenda so you remain in power. A moral agenda protects those on the margins of our society, instead of passing laws that harm them and push them farther into the margins. In the same way a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so democracy is only as strong as its most silent voices. In other words, when we silent marginalized voices, we squelch democracy. The writer of Proverbs exhorts us, saying, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). A moral agenda sets out to do just that.

Rev. Dr. Riggs listed the specifics of moral policy saying, More specifically, here are a few specific examples, of what a moral agenda looks like including, expanding Medicaid and resourcing rural hospitals so they remain open, ensuring emergency healthcare to those in the farthest corners of of our State, acknowledging that reproductive rights are between a woman, her faith leader, and her doctor, housing those experiencing homelessness instead of criminalizing them, resourcing public schools and increasing teacher pay instead of financing private schools through vouchers or pseudo-private schools, protecting children in state custody, providing them a bedroom to sleep in, instead of an office couch, taking children’s accusations of abuse seriously, rejecting discriminatory and oppressive bills against LGBTQ communities and instead fighting for racial equality and against white Christian Nationalism, and changing our State Constitution to get rid of the death penalty once and for all.

He ending by reading the words of the psalmist in Psalm 82:1-3, “God presides in the great assembly. ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless, maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked