WASHINGTON — Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who is unapologetic in her support for abortion rights, told a gathering of left-leaning clergy and activists Monday that it is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan that shapes her views on public policy.
Harris was the last of nine 2020 presidential hopefuls to speak at an all-day forum kicking off the three-day Moral Action Congress hosted by The Poor People's Campaign, a coalition bridging like-minded people and organizations in all 50 states for a “national call for moral revival.”
The campaign focuses on issues that activists argue impact poverty in the United States, such as raising the minimum wage, climate change, voter suppression and access to health care.
“This is about morality, it is about what are our morals,” the 54-year-old California senator told those gathered at Trinity Washington University, a Catholic institution.
“It is about what is right, what are the teachings of Christ and other leaders who teach us the importance of living a life that is not about ourselves but about service to and for others.”
Harris explained that she was raised by parents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement and spent their time marching in the streets for justice and equality. She said she was taught early in her life that her purpose “should be about service to others.”
“So, I then put that into the context of what is morally right. I often think of the parable of the Good Samaritan because what the teachings are there from the book of Luke, it is about how do we define neighbor,” Harris stated.
“Everyone knows [we need to] live and treat our neighbor as we would want to be treated. But what I like about the parable of the Good Samaritan is that it’s about defining who is neighbor and understanding that neighbor is not about the person who shares your zip code.”
The parable, found in Luke 10, is one of Jesus’ most famous teachings laying out what a neighbor is and what a neighbor is supposed to do. The parable is told after Christ explains that his followers are called to love their neighbors as themselves. Christ was asked “who is my neighbor?”
While many people might think of neighbors as people who live in their community, Jesus pointed to the story of a feared foreigner who stopped to provide aid to a stranger who had been beaten and left for dead when a priest and a Levite did nothing to help.
“What we learn in that parable is that neighbor is that person you are walking by who is homeless on the street. The neighbor is some child or young person who is a runaway and who is vulnerable or has been exposed to neglect or abuse,” Harris said. “Neighbor is that refugee who arrives on our shores seeking the support of what should be the strong arms of our nation and an embrace, not what we have seen from this administration.”
Harris criticized the Trump administration, saying that it “wants to flip [refugees] and say ‘Go back to where you came from.’”
“Neighbor is about understanding and living in service of others and understanding that we are all each other’s brothers and sisters,” explained Harris. “Seeing in each other a family member, a child, a friend, a mother, a father.”
“So, when I talk about and think about policy in that context, it is everything that I think about when I think about why I support Medicare for All. It is everything I talk about and think about when I say we need to lift up working families,” Harris added.
“It is everything that I think about when I say that we need to pay teacher’s their value. We need to reform the criminal justice system. We need to help renters out. We need to see what is happening in our country and treat our fellow human beings as we would our neighbor, as we would want for ourselves.”
Harris’ appeal to religious liberals comes as she has made a name for herself on the political left not only as a U.S. senator but also a former attorney general of California.
Harris has received much criticism from the right over her support for abortion and the nation’s largest abortion provider Planned Parenthood, which conducts 330,000 abortions a year.
As California attorney general, Harris prosecuted pro-life activists David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt after the Center for Medical Progress released undercover video purporting to show Planned Parenthood leaders discussing their openness to violating federal law regulating fetal tissue reimbursement.
Daleiden, who was fined $195,000, blamed Harris and a federal judge of concocting a "bogus legal scheme" against him. Daleiden had also accused Harris of prosecuting him to not only protect Planned Parenthood but to help her U.S. Senate campaign.
Harris suggested in a May MSNBC townhall that if elected, her administration would require states with a history of passing pro-life legislation designed to restrict access to abortion to seek approval from the Justice Department to determine if “they are constitutional.”
She said that such a pre-approval process is modeled after the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racial discrimination to get authorization from the Justice Department before they can pass any voting laws.
The Poor People’s Campaign, which takes the name of the same movement once led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1960s, is co-chaired by Disciples of Christ Bishop William Barber, an NAACP civil rights activist; and Rev. Liz Theoharis, founder of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice.
In May, Barber protested against the almost near-total abortion ban passed in Alabama. He declared that Alabama officials were guilty of an “immoral hypocrisy” because “they won’t support life issues “by addressing health care,” or “pushing for living wages.”