African-American Churches Using “Souls To Polls” Campaign To Get Black People To Vote
Although some black pastors are encouraging people not to vote for Barack or Mitt, the majority of the churches are going hard to make sure voices are heard.
Via Huffington Post:
It’s not just the collection plate that’s getting passed around this fall at hundreds of mainly African-American and Latino churches in presidential battleground states and across the nation. Exhorting congregations to register to vote, church leaders are distributing registration cards in the middle of services, and many are pledging caravans of “souls to the polls” to deliver the vote.
The stepped-up effort in many states is a response by activists worried that new election rules, from tougher photo identification requirements to fewer days of early voting, are unfairly targeting minority voters – specifically, African-Americans who tend to vote heavily for Democrats. Some leaders compare their registration and get-out-the-vote efforts to the racial struggle that led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
“In light of all this, we are saying just let our people vote,” said the Rev. Dawn Riley Duval, social justice minister at the Shorter Community A.M.E. Church in Denver. “The people are being oppressed by these measures. It has ignited a sense of urgency and collective power that we can take by engaging in the process.”
In key swing states such as Florida and Ohio, proponents of the new election rules deny they are aimed at suppressing the minority vote in hopes of helping Republicans win more races. Reasons for their enactment vary between rooting out fraud and purging ineligible voters to streamlining the voting process.
But to some African-American leaders like the Rev. F.E. Perry, a Cleveland-based bishop in Ohio’s Church of God in Christ, it’s as if the 1960s barriers to black civil rights have returned all over again. “We’ve come too far to sit idly by and watch that happen,” Perry said. “We want to get souls to the polls. Whatever it takes to get them there, that’s what we’re going to do.” To be sure, not all clergy are encouraging their flocks to turn out on Election Day: Some black pastors are telling their congregations to stay home, seeing no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage. The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as Obama did in May. As for Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, some congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood. Those pastors, however, are in the minority.
Many Democrats see a pattern of partisanship in many of the new election laws, which they contend are intended to hinder minority turnout and boost the prospects of GOP candidates. “I pray it’s not politics, but I don’t know. It doesn’t look like anything other than politics,” said the Rev. Richard Dunn, pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church in Miami. This year in Florida, a new election law eliminated early voting on that last Sunday, although there is a Sunday for early voting about a week and a half earlier. Dunn, the Miami pastor, said he expects most churches will shift to that earlier day, which falls on Oct. 28 this year.
“Sunday in the African-American tradition is one of the biggest days historically in our community,” he said. “You have large numbers of people who go to church. Pastors aren’t saying who to vote for, but they are saying, `This is souls to the polls day.'” Florida’s law was also challenged in federal court, but a judge ruled in September there wasn’t enough proof that the change would harm African-Americans’ right to vote. The judge also noted that, unlike the previous law, the new rules required at least one Sunday for early voting.
Meanwhile, from the pulpit, some churches are even using a litany that calls upon congregations to remember the fight to obtain the vote as well as other civil rights. One such script distributed by PICO (it stands for People Improving Communities by Organizing) mentions the Rev. Martin Luther King, the bloody march in Selma, Ala., and many other civil rights milestones.
Make sure you get out there and vote!