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30 October 2020

CONTACT: Alan L. Jennings



Jennings Says, “The First Amendment Trumps Trump”

Saying he has more respect for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution than for the 45th president, Alan Jennings, Executive Director of the Community Action Lehigh Valley, publicly announced that his organization would defy Executive Order 13950. The order, issued on September 22, prohibits organizations receiving federal funding from offering or receiving training that:

The EO bans federal grants to programs unless such programs certify that they will not promote “divisive concepts.” The EO will also ban training by qualifying federal contractors on the same “divisive concepts.” The EO defines divisive concepts to include any notions that promote that: (1) one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex; (2) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, (3) an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex; (4) members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex; (5) an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex; (6) an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex; (7) any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex; or (8) meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race. The term “divisive concepts” also includes any other form of race or sex “stereotyping” or any other form of race or sex scapegoating.

When Jennings learned that the Order allows the federal government to yank funding if contractors or grantees refused to comply, he reacted with the following statement:

“This country, this community, have a race problem. If we can be honest with ourselves for just a few minutes, it is apparent that the Lehigh Valley is segregated. White kids get better educational resources, they have more freedom, more resources. They are more likely to be the beneficiary of an inheritance from an affluent relative. They don’t get pulled over because a turn signal doesn’t function. They don’t get shot in the back at close range by a rogue police officer.

The leadership in more and more businesses, more and more nonprofits, more and more government agencies has seen enough George Floyds and are leading the way in insisting that we as a people come together, work together, cry together and solve problems together. Hopefully, even celebrate together.

“The Community Action Lehigh Valley has worked with banks to improve access to capital, with Realtors to improve compliance with fair housing laws and is in the midst of a potentially ground-breaking process of developing a regional strategic plan on diversity, equity and inclusion. Racism in America, in the Lehigh Valley is not just the use of denigrating language (e.g., the so-called “N-word”). There are systems that are locked in that exclude and some are very effective.

“This agency’s work on the Color Outside the Lines planning process has brought 870 people to participate in more than 70 group sessions. Apparently, getting the vast diversity in our communities to have productive dialogues designed to bring us together is some kind of threat to the president’s perspective on our world. I have seen enough that I am not surprised but I despair that his perspective is so grounded in bigotry.

“For our part, Community Action will not be deterred. We believe that we really are all better off when we are all better off, that we solve our problems by being inclusive, not slam the door in someone’s face because their skin color is a little darker.

“We reject paranoia, we reject racism, we reject exceptionalism, we reject division, nativism and xenophobia. And we reject demagoguery.

Community Action will defy an Executive Order that is ill-founded, ill-developed, ill-intended, cynical and, yes, racist. It blatantly disrespects the centuries-old document that defines us as a nation.

Our Campaign for Racial and Ethnic Justice will go ahead with the training that more than 1,900 people locally have signed on to attend. We thank each of them for understanding how much better this community can be.”

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