Faith Summit on Poverty revisits Dr. Frederick D. Haynes III’s “Bill of Rights for the Poor”

pastor.jpgFriendship West Baptist Church in Dallas hosted its second Faith Summit on Poverty March 30 & 31.  Part of the weekend's focus was The Bill of Rights for the Poor which was introduced at last year's summit. Dr. Hanyes' vision has spawned legislation by State Representative Yvonne Davis of Dallas who sponsored House Bill 947 , known as The Bill of Rights for the Underprivileged. The bill was instituted by the Texas House of Representatives on March 15, 2007.


All forms of human oppression must be dismantled. All people and especially the poor have the right to pursue life, liberty and happiness without institutional barriers. Racism, sexism, discrimination against disabled people, classism and imperialism must be addressed and eliminated if the poor are to escape impoverishment.

The poor have a right to a public policy agenda that invests in human beings. Too this end, we are calling for the creation of “Communities of Opportunity” where there has been historic neglect and economic apartheid. These “communities of opportunity” should eliminate all forms of economic predators that preclude economic development. Federal, state and local resources should be made available to community groups and efforts that create economic opportunity in these communities. Partnerships between corporate and community based groups that open doors of opportunity and invest in the “least of these” should be encouraged and rewarded. Communities of Opportunity will necessitate a comprehensive economic policy on the National, state and local levels which places the interests of people in need over the interests of corporate greed. Government must regulate corporations and end the transfer of jobs out of the country. Legislation must be passed that forbids the closing of plants and business headquarters without a public hearing and insures compensation for those who suffer job loss.

One in every six children in America is a victim of poverty. One in three children of color is growing up in poverty. Every child should have access to quality health care, education, and housing and live in a safe community.

All people should have “equal protection under the law” and the poor must be protected from injustice in the legal system. The poor are often warehoused in the nations prison industrial complex, which has become the 21 st century’s version of slavery. The poor must be guaranteed competent representation and equal justice. The poor must be assured of justice in civil and criminal courts.

The poor must be protected from state sponsored terrorism in the form of police brutality. The poor have a right to be protected and served, as opposed to being abused and exploited. We call for unequivocal civilian control of our neighborhoods and citizen review boards with the power to discipline police abuse and misconduct. A community partnership for the elimination of crime and violence in poor communities must be established between the police and community based groups.

The poor should have the right to full employment and a guaranteed income that enables them to rise above the poverty level. We call for government investment in community-based and cooperating partnerships that generate jobs. Wherever there are areas of concentrated unemployment there must be a concentrated effort to bring jobs and opportunity.

The poor should not be victimized by inequality of opportunity. Pay equity for women and people of color must be legislated. Women must be legally protected from sexual harassment and abuse on the job and domestic violence.

We believe in the liberation and empowerment of oppressed people all over the world. Dr. King maintained that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We demand that the foreign policy of the United States is characterized by justice and freedom. This policy must insure that economic exploitation of impoverished nations is eliminated. This is a moral bill of rights, rooted in our faith as Christians. The implementation of this bill of rights will move us closer to being “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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