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‘The Morality of Freedom’: Lecture discusses modern applications of Constitution

By Tabitha Johnston - Chronicle Staff | Sep 25, 2020


SHEPHERDSTOWN — On Sept. 17, the Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education hosted the 16th Annual Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the U.S. Constitution on Zoom.

The event, which is held every year on Constitution Day, was founded in honor of the late Tom E. Moses, a long-time civil libertarian and World War II veteran who earned a Bronze Star and later served on the board of directors of the ACLU-WV.

This year’s lecture, unlike previous ones, was dedicated to another person with a similar passion for social justice.

“The 16th Annual Tom E. Moses Memorial Lecture on the U.S. Constitution will be dedicated in memory of the Honorable John R. Lewis, late Congressman of Georgia and lifelong defender of Civil Rights,” said a press release from Byrd Center Archivist and Office Manager Jody Brumage. “Like the namesake of this lecture, John Lewis devoted his life to uplifting people who are victimized by unjust policies in this nation. The endurance of representative democracy demands our courageous support and informed participation to ensure that all people are truly counted among ‘We the People.'”

This year’s Constitution Day lecture, “The Morality of Freedom: Re-imagining the Promises of the U.S. Constitution,” was given by Sabrina Dent, senior faith advisor for Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“We should hold politicians accountable to serve with the concept of ‘We the people,'” Dent said. “The religious landscape of this country is changing. This country is comprised of religious people from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Some families were brought here to the Americas. Others came here by choice. ‘We’ today — the demographics look different!

“When we’re talking about the Constitution and being reminded that everyone matters –everyone should be important and valued — it’s important to look at the timeline of the founding of this country,” Dent said. “We have to look back at 1787, at the founding of this country, that the founders did not fight for human freedom. The Constitution excluded women, it excluded Blacks, it excluded minorities and it excluded emancipated people. With that as the foundation for the country, it makes it complicated to move forward.”

According to Dent, Lewis’ legacy can be found in the words that inspire her work with Americans United for Separation of Church and State today.

“When we think of what has happened through history, we have to think about our obligation to speak up. And, as John Lewis told us, to ‘get into good trouble!'” Dent said.

“We must recognize the moral imperative to us. It’s important that we take an inclusive approach, and recognize the need for systemic change in policies in the United States,” Dent said. “For me, moral leadership requires that we take proactive leadership that embodies the care and concern that we take for everyone. The morality for freedom is about considering and caring for the concerns of not just one individual, but for all!”

To learn more about the Byrd Center or watch the entire lecture, visit https://www.byrdcenter.org/.