Religious Faith and the Fight for Democracy

Christianity has always been a religion of respect for the underdog – sometimes needing to critique its own structures and governing authority, especially when the powers-that-be are careless of the greater public good. In most modern states, the law of the land is seen as a defence against those who would deny the common human rights of each person to determine their own particular choice for a form of government. In this light, in the religious sphere, we can see that Pope Francis has decided to use his executive position in the worldwide Roman Catholic Church to allow for the input of the faithful laity into the decisions of synodical meetings, so that the predominant clerical voice no longer decides on the future shape and form of the Ministry of the Catholic Church.

Modern democratic governments – like many of us in the West are accustomed to – now allow for public input into the choice of whom the people will elect to serve them in political office. This is achieved, in most cases, by free and open election processes. The irony here is that, in the United States of America – perhaps the first democratic Republic in the modern era – the last Presidency, of Donald Trump, ended in a social and political turmoil, where the President, himself, has been recognised as having stirred up a spirit of rebellion among his supporters against the very institution that was raised up to represent and protect the ideals of democratic freedom of the people to elect their own governmental representatives.

This upset of the social and moral order has not been without its input of the actions of some religious leaders who, themselves, had benefitted from the repressive governmental leadership of Donald Trump. Some Catholic and Protestant Leaders have been vociferous in their support of the Republican political and social agenda; which had led them – in their various denominational leanings – to support the implementation of a restrictive and, in some cases unjust; political outcome from the reigning powers-that-be.

In the aftermath of the violent post-election attack on the House of Representatives, which sought to retain Donald Trump’s hold on the White House by the exercise of a bold attempt to retain his political power in government; other religious leaders – perhaps those with more of a social conscience, consonant with democratic human rights – have expressed their conscientious opposition to anything that is seen to undermine the representative right of every American citizen to cast their vote in national and local elections.

One such religious leader is Jewish Rabbi David Sapperstein, whose support for the local democratic “People For the American Way” has inspired him to write this article, below, in which he seeks support for the democratic right to vote for ALL people of the United States of America:

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More than 50 years ago, in a conference room at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington, DC, civil rights leaders drafted their contributions to what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As the former long-time executive director of the RAC who has fought for the continued protection of civil rights and voting rights, I have urgent and alarming concerns about the future of our democracy and those on the Far Right who seek to undermine it.

That’s why, when Ben Jealous asked me to join a civil disobedience action outside the White House to urge President Biden to do more to protect the sacred right to vote, I joined him without hesitation – and was arrested with other People For leaders and allies in the process.

I’m a decades-long board member and passionate supporter of People For the American Way and its work to defend democracy and democratic values. I’m proud that this organization I’ve supported for so long is continuing to lead this important fight for voting rights with courage, moral vision, and bold action.

How disheartening it is to see the deterioration in what had been the traditional bipartisan support for voting rights. As recently as 2006, the last time the Voting Rights Act was reauthorized, it passed unanimously in the Republican-controlled Senate and overwhelmingly in the House – and was signed by a Republican president. 

Now, as Republican legislatures in more than 19 states pass legislation to restrict voting, Senate Republicans are using the filibuster to block any effort to strengthen federal voting rights protections. It threatens the very fabric of our democracy. 

We need organizations like People For to be as well-equipped as possible to continue this critical fight into next year – to protect our vote as we head into what will likely be a tumultuous and contentious midterm election cycle. 

With the right to vote in peril and far-right bigotry on the rise, we need to make sure that organizations like People For are strong enough to face these challenges. 

Thank you for all of your support and hard work in our shared fight. 

Sincerely,

Rabbi David Saperstein
Board Member, People For the American W
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About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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