Non-violent civil disobedience returns to Governor’s Office as Moral Movement continues

United Methodist pastors Rev. Keith Caldwell (l) and Rev. Stephen Handy (r) offered communion and prayer, along with scripture reading, as a part of the non-violent sit in. (photo: Moral Movement Facebook page)

United Methodist pastors Rev. Keith Caldwell (l) and Rev. Stephen Handy (r) offered communion and prayer, along with scripture reading, as a part of the non-violent sit in. (photo: Moral Movement Facebook page)

“Why all the fuss about health insurance?” the lady asked me. “I’ll answer your question if you will answer one for me,” I replied. “Sure,” she said. “How much is a human life worth?” I asked. “I don’t understand,” she replied. “Every day,” I said, “since I learned that between two and five people in Tennessee die daily because they do not have health insurance, I ask myself that question.” I also told her working-age people without health insurance are 40% more likely to die than working-age people who have it.

Rev. Dr. Herbert Lester, Jr. makes request to Gov. Haslam's aide. (photo: Moral Movement Facebook page)

Rev. Dr. Herbert Lester, Jr. makes request to Gov. Haslam’s aide. (photo: Moral Movement Facebook page)

Clergy and other Tennessee residents took action last Tuesday in an effort to force the governor to recognize the need for citizens of Tennessee to be allowed the fairness of receiving insurance. This ‘sit-in’ at Gov. Bill Haslam’s office was a request that the governor call a special session to expand Medicaid. The excerpts of this article are the words of Rev. Dr. Herbert Lester, Jr., one of the many participants in the Moral Movement that began April 11.

“After years of phone calls, meetings, rallies, and prayer vigils Tennesseans once again find ourselves at the final weeks of another legislative session with no movement on expanding health care to 280,000+ of our neighbors,” said Lester.

I told her I met a friend who was dying of cancer because she had lost her health insurance and no doctor would see her without it. She was finally seen at Planned Parenthood but by then it was already too late. She is a decorated veteran and had been an entrepreneur and an independent businessperson who had lost her insurance when she was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition causing several heart attacks and a stroke before her problem was ever figured out. Her insurance company bailed as soon as they legally could.

This is why the group has escalated to actions of nonviolent civil disobedience. With no alternative course of dissent and as a way to provide moral clarity on the urgency of the issue, participants are involved in this movement with the risk of being arrested. The demand is for the governor to call a special session on Medicaid Expansion (with no conditions such as ‘work requirements’ or coverage for only limited groups of uninsured). This is known to be the first and only critical step towards finally getting it passed this session.

I was honored to be with my friend last Tuesday when 11 of us were arrested and charged with Criminal Trespassing for trying to see the governor and implore him to call a special session of the Legislature to pass Medicaid expansion. She told the Governor’s Deputy that she planned to be the last person in Tennessee to die because she had no health insurance. Standing with her and the 280,000 other Tennesseans who could have health insurance but don’t is the only place for me to be. “Where do you stand?” I asked.

As one group was arrested last week, elected officials continue to refuse official comment on the matter. Because last Tuesday’s efforts were not settled, that will serve as just the beginning of a season of nonviolent resistance.
On April 18, the public was urged to once again spread the word, and invite others for another action of moral dissent and witness.

The Moral Movement met again for a pre-action briefing at McKendree United Methodist Church and then went on to the governor’s office.

For those who wish to join in the petition to the governor and legislators through nonviolent civil disobedience based on your own moral conscience or have questions as to how you can support, contact <moralmovementtn@gmail.com>.




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