Statement at Candlelight Vigil in Smithfield. Click for news coverage.
Deuteronomy 15: For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.
Acts 10: But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
The Bible is clear that we must not be a community that mistreats people based on differences. If anything, Deuteronomy calls on us to remember that we are all immigrants one way or another. We are all different but we are all creations of God. The Book of Acts teaches us that we cannot call other people dirty, trashy, and unclean when from one blood God made all people.
We cannot call unclean what God has made. How can we put our hands on the Bible when we are sworn into public office and not try to live by what the pages say?
One North Carolina is the call of our state whether we are black, white, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American. We are a part of one North Carolina. For our dear sheriff, or any elected official, to say what has been said about a whole nationality of people and to do it in a moment of thoughtful reflection, not in a blurp, is a violation of public office. We call on Sheriff Bizzell, as an act of love for him, to resign.
We believe he needs time to reflect and to grow beyond these feelings. And, he needs to show acts of repentance.
If he had said this on a job to someone they would have a right to sue him under federal law. If he had said this in a classroom the principal would have removed him. If he had said this in the legislature they would have censored him. If he had said this in a courtroom, the judge would have held him in contempt. And, we believe if he had been a black sheriff saying this about someone white, the public outcry would have been deafening.
This is a praying time. Sheriff Bizzell’s actions should cause all of us to look at the state of our community and even to repent for being silent as we have while watching insults and injurious public actions and public policy thrown at our Hispanic brothers and sisters over and over again. This is not about public safety. It is not about whether we want officers of the law to enforce the law. Wanting officers to uphold the law is a given.
This is about public relations. This is about public trust. This is about public responsibility to uphold a standard of service that is not tainted with racist sentiment. This is about rhetoric gone wild. We must know that officers of the law carry out and enforce the law without bias or prejudice. That is why we come to pray and protest.
We come today in great hope that change will come. We call on the elected officials around this state not to do like the local county officials and prop up these actions. The issue is not even whether we forgive as Christians. We forgive our enemies. But wholeness cannot come until there are concrete actions of repentance. So let us pray.