Results of 2002 Election a ‘Threat to Civil Rights’

Media 11.8.02

Washington ? Declaring that the outcome of the 2002 elections could pose grave threats to Americans’ civil and constitutional rights, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights today called for a new activism to preserve the progress achieved over the last 50 years.

“With Congress now in the hands of far right ideologues, there is little that stands in the way of the White House’s goal of packing the federal courts ? an outcome which poses a serious and direct threat to civil and constitutional rights and liberties, ” said LCCR Executive Director Wade Henderson.

Calling for a renewal of “principled social activism,” Henderson stated, “to combat this grave danger to our freedoms, we must sharply focus our energies, engage new allies, mobilize our constituencies, and fight to defend any further erosion in the progress that has been achieved over the last 50 years.”

Henderson said that for those who believe in and defend civil rights and liberties, the battle lines are very clear that the fight is not about political parties, but about two drastically different visions of America. One is dedicated to the protection of equal opportunity, individual rights, and fundamental freedoms. The other seeks to limit those rights and diminish those freedoms.

“The basic question is,” said Henderson, “do we want an America where there is a calculated strategy to erode protections against discrimination for women and racial and religious minorities in the workplace? Where government operates in secret? Where deep disparities in opportunities based on race, gender, and class become greater? Where gays and lesbians do not enjoy the same rights to freedom and equal opportunity as others?”

“For nearly fifty years, the prevailing view was that the federal government was the key institution to protect opportunity and enforce rights for all Americans,” Henderson added. “Over the last year, we have seen President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft use executive power to weaken basic rights and undermine equal opportunity. Now, with the both the House and Senate under the control of far right ideologues, we likely are at a time of extreme peril for civil rights and liberties,” Henderson added.

Continuing, Henderson said, “in our nation’s history, the biggest strides that we have made toward achieving justice and equal opportunity in our society have come through principled social activism and litigation such as Brown v. Board of Education, and through a politically sensitized Congress, which believed in the ability of the federal government to address equal opportunity and justice. As a result, Congress passed such landmark laws as the Civil Rights Acts; the Fair Housing Act; minimum wage legislation; the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act; the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Earned Income Tax Credit. Today, we anticipate that many on the far right will use Congress and the courts to take away historic victories and push their regressive agenda. This is why the civil rights community is preparing for the battle to maintain our rights and liberties,” concluded Henderson.