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Rev. Jackson rips Republicans while Rauner watches at church event

The Rev. Jesse Jacksspeaks congregatiNew Covenant Missionary Baptist Church Chicago Sunday.  | KevTanaka/For Sun-Tmes Media

The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks to the congregation at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago on Sunday. | Kevin Tanaka/For Sun-Tmes Media

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Updated: August 1, 2014 6:22AM

Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act became law, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. on Sunday called on African-Americans to dwell less on prayer and instead focus on taking matters into their own hands in the continuing fight for equality.

“Praying will not get my relative out of jail. Praying will not get my student debt relieved. Praying will not get me a job,” Jackson said, leading the congregation at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, 754 E. 77th St., in a testimonial. “We are free, but not equal.”

Jackson called on African-Americans to continually strive for equal treatment, and he directed special ire at members of the Republican Party who he said want to do away with government-sponsored social welfare programs.

And he did so while Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner — who also spoke to the congregation Sunday — was in the church looking on.

“Did you know that in the 11 Southern states that had slaves . . . those who were Jefferson Davis Democrats are now Reagan Republicans?” Jackson said, referring both to the long-dead president of the Confederacy, as well as a shift in party affiliation that occurred across parts of the South — backlash from Northern Democrats’ support of civil rights.

“They fight to keep your wages low. They fight to cut food stamps,” Jackson said, earning several “amens” from the crowd. “Can you imagine Jesus fighting against food stamps? The guy with the fish and the bread fighting food stamps?”

Before Jackson spoke, Rauner addressed the congregation. He told churchgoers that he is not a politician. Acknowledging his immense personal wealth, Rauner said he “didn’t come from any money” but felt a strong moral obligation to give back to the community.

“We love our city, we love our state,” Rauner said. He later added that he is running for governor because he’s “frustrated that the quality of life is not improving for the families of Illinois.”

While Rauner may have been trying to make inroads with African-American voters, Jackson’s speech at the church was held in conjunction with the annual convention for his nonprofit group, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

Rauner has been endorsed by the Rev. James Meeks, an African-American pastor and former Democratic state senator with a sizable following.

Jackson said Rauner was a guest of the church’s pastor. Jackson said he and Rauner had a “courtesy” conversation earlier in the morning.

“He’s working diligently to try to impress to people that he can identify with them,” Jackson said of Rauner. “I respect what he’s doing.”

On his way out of the church, Rauner was asked about his appearance at the event. “We are visiting with church leaders around Chicago, talking about opportunities in education and, uh . . . ” he said, trailing off as a campaign staffer intervened.

As he climbed into a car, Rauner did not respond when asked what he thought of Jackson’s remarks from the pulpit.


Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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