Clergy and faith leaders across traditions join Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, and Yolanda Renee King to send a powerful message to President Biden and the U.S. Senate: voting is sacred, make voting rights legislation a reality
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, over 800 clergy and faith leaders across traditions issued a letter to President Biden and the Senate calling for the urgent prioritization of voting rights legislation. Coming on the heels of 500+ anti-voting bills introduced in 2021, and 33 enacted into law, faith leaders nationwide are demanding immediate investment in voting as a sacred right. The faith leaders who signed on to the letter represent some of the states where voting rights faced significant attacks in 2021: Texas, Florida, Arizona, Georgia, and more.
The letter, organized by the African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Faithful Democracy, Faith in Public Life, National Council of Jewish Women, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, People For the American Way, The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, T’ruah, the Washington National Cathedral, and several other partners and leaders is a critical part of the push for voting rights leading into MLK Day weekend. On MLK Day, these leaders will join in solidarity with Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, Yolanda Renee King, and 100+ national and grassroots organizations to honor Dr. King’s legacy by demanding that Congress and the President restore and defend access to the ballot box.
The faith community and its leaders have always played an instrumental role in securing and expanding civil rights. During the Civil Rights era, prominent leaders, including Dr. King, were driven by their faith to fight for equality and serve others. Now, signatories including Rev. Al Sharpton of National Action Network; Rev. Hamlin of the Washington National Cathedral; Rabbi Charles Kroloff, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Sister Quincy Howard, OP of Faithful Democracy and NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Justice, Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block of Bend The Arc: Jewish Action, Rev. Dr. Stephany Spaulding of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Colorado Springs, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg of National Council of Jewish Women and many others are working tirelessly to honor the legacy of civil rights leaders and ensure that all Americans have equal access to the vote.
“Leaders from all faiths, including Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, joined my father on the Selma to Montgomery march to call for voting rights because they understood that this cause is transcendent, regardless of denomination,” said Martin Luther King III, Chairman of the Drum Major Institute. “The faith community is coming together again on MLK Day in 2022 to call on Congress and the President to ensure they protect our right to vote. There is no time to waste.”
“Faith has always powered civil rights movements, from the 1960s to today,” said Arndrea Waters King, Activist and President of the Drum Major Institute. “Now — as always — the faith community is standing up and making it clear: We simply will not stop until voting rights become a reality. It’s time for elected officials to stop making empty promises on the campaign trail and deliver for the voters who put them in office — and that starts with protecting voting rights.”
“Fifty-seven years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, we are still fighting for the same voting rights that Dr. King and countless others put their blood, sweat, and tears into,” said Pastor Warren Stewart, Chair of the African American Christian Clergy Coalition. “We are disappointed, but like our ancestors, we will continue to call on our elected officials to pass voting rights legislation and eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster. Justice and equity are God-given rights that should never be denied and must be defended aggressively. Broken rules like the filibuster severely impact our communities of color in our country, and it’s time for Congress to choose our rights over the Jim Crow filibuster.”
“Five decades ago, faith leaders locked arms with Dr. King in Selma to call for voting rights. In the words of Rabbi Heschel, their ‘feet were praying’ as they mobilized their congregations and communities for justice,” said Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block, Washington Director of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action. “Now our voting rights are under an assault not seen since that time, and we are joining together in that same struggle with Martin Luther King III, Arndrea Waters King, and Yolanda Renee King. This is our time to once again unite across communities of faith to call on Congress, President Biden, and the country as a whole to deliver on this nation’s unfulfilled promise of voting rights for all.”
“Dr. King often quoted the Biblical prophet Amos’ call for justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream,” said Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life. “But today, Republican politicians are damming up the waters of justice by intentionally sabotaging Black and Brown people’s freedom to vote. Senate Democrats must wade in and tear down those dams by immediately passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Our freedom to choose our leaders through fair and free elections is sacred, and hangs in the balance. People of faith will accept no excuses for delay or inaction.”
“The faith community has been tirelessly mobilizing for federal reforms that protect and strengthen our democracy. Recent revelations about the January 6th attack on our democracy are the final straw that must spur the Senate to action,” said Sister Quincy Howard of NETWORK for Catholic Justice and Coordinating Director of Faithful Democracy. “Faith leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. have been on the frontlines since the democratic founding of our nation, asserting the dignity and demanding the rights of Americans. We continue to be that voice of moral exigency at this pivotal moment in our history, demanding that Congress and President Biden pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis VRAA into law. This is not a partisan issue, it is a profoundly moral one that will define our future as a nation.”
“Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said that we are all caught in an ‘inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be,’” said Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, National Council of Jewish Women Scholar in Residence. “In our democracy, the right to determine and shape our own futures is tied up in our right to cast a vote and have that vote counted. It’s why the work to protect our freedom to vote is sacred and — in the face of tyranny and racism and fear — must be redoubled.”
“Building a community where every life is valued, every voice is heard, and the right to vote is appreciated requires more than good intentions,” said Rev. Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., Canon Missioner and Minister for Equity & Inclusion, Washington National Cathedral. “It requires action on every level that unites us and moves us into a reality where liberty and justice are not limited to debate but experienced by ALL.”