USA TODAY US Edition
‘Stand with the poor,’ Sanders tells students at Christian school
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke Monday at an evangelical school where he framed his fight against wealth and income inequality in terms of morality and justice.
Sanders, a Vermont independent running for the Democratic presidential nomination, conceded that many in the audience at Liberty University, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, disagree with his support for abortion rights and gay marriage. But he suggested they might agree that when “a handful of people have wealth beyond comprehension,” other people shouldn’t have to struggle to feed their families, put a roof over their heads or visit a doctor.
“When we talk about morality and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little,” he said to applause from the audience of nearly 12,000.
Sanders said he spoke at the school because it’s important to find common ground.
“It is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people and when necessary to take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm,” he said.
David Nasser, the school’s senior vice president for spiritual development, drew loud applause after the speech when he told Sanders on stage that although most Christians agree it’s immoral to protect billionaires at the expense of society’s most vulnerable citizens, they would say unborn children need protection, too. Sanders also drew applause in responding that it’s “improper” for the government to involve itself in the issue.
“I don’t want to be too provoc- ative here, but very often, conservatives say, ‘Get the government out of my life,’ ” he said. “On this very sensitive issue … my view is I respect absolutely a family that says, ‘No, we are not going to have an abortion.’ But I would hope that other people respect the very painful and difficult choice that many women feel they have to make and don’t want the government telling them what they have to do.”
Student Government Association President Quincy Thompson, 22, of Dallas said Sanders connected with students, who were excited to hear a different perspective. Thompson, a pastoral leadership major, said Sanders’ statistics on poverty “struck a chord” with him personally. But he said churches — not the government — should address those needs.
“From today, I’m going to be more aware of the people that are in need in my community of Lynchburg,” Thompson said.
Liberty University, the largest private, non-profit university in the nation, is a regular stop for more conservative candidates.