ELCA introduces initiative to address voting rights
By Candice Hill Buchbinder, ELCA News
Affirming its commitment to ensure voting rights for all U.S. citizens, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has introduced ELCAvotes, an initiative to help members advocate for fair elections and engage in local efforts to guarantee the right to vote.
“ELCAvotes is about linking faith, civic engagement and theology in the public square,” said Rozella White, program director, ELCA Young Adult Ministry. “It is our hope to invite more people, especially young adults, into fuller conversation as they live out lives of faith in society.”
ELCAvotes was developed in response to “Voting Rights to All Citizens,” a social policy resolution adopted by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The resolution states that “members, congregations, and synods of this church be encouraged to ‘promote public life worthy of the name’ by speaking out as an advocate and engaging in local efforts such as voter registration and supporting legislation to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens.”
The ministries leading the initiative include ELCA Advocacy, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries and ELCA Young Adult Ministry.
“In this election year filled with divisiveness and at times hateful rhetoric, it is easy to forget that our electoral process exists to ensure all voices are heard in the shaping of our representative democracy,” said Tia Upchurch-Freelove, program director, ELCA Advocacy communications and grassroots outreach. “Voting is one of the most important ways Americans can be involved in our democracy. As part of our ELCAvotes initiative, we will share resources and work together to find ways to ensure all citizens have the right to vote.”
ELCAvotes provides faith-based resources to encourage faithful and non-partisan voter participation and a context for all Lutherans to learn about issues such as economic and racial justice that influence voting rights. The resources also provide tools to help young adults understand what it means to be a young person of faith who is civically engaged and will help equip ethnic communities to talk about race and voting rights and the connection with the election year.
“After gaining many of the strides won during the civil rights era, voter suppression and voter restrictions still remain under attack for communities of color,” said Judith Roberts, program director, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries. “The racially blatant discriminatory laws and state sanctioned violence under the Jim Crow era denied blacks and other people of color the opportunity to vote are gone. However, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to dismantle a key provision of the Voting Rights Act removed a critical element to combat racial discrimination in voting. This removal of protection continues to have unintended consequences in extending all citizens the opportunity to fully exercise their right to vote.”
Roberts emphasized that the ELCA, through the social policy resolution, has stated “the guarantee that all citizens may exercise the right to vote on an equal basis is a fundamental requirement for a just society.”
“We have to be a church that not only thinks about engagement and has prolific documents on our theological views as they pertain to public life, but we also have to be a church that models active, living, daring faith in Jesus Christ,” said White. “Our faith calls us to action, and this initiative is one way of being a church committed to doing God’s work with our whole being.”
Information and resources are available at ELCA.org/Resources/Advocacy.