Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and more than 800 faith leaders from various religions are demanding that President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats immediately push through voting rights legislation.
“We cannot be clearer. You must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored,” the faith leaders wrote in the letter released on December 23. “Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress.”
In addition to Sharpton and King, those signing the letter included a mix of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith leaders. Rev. Aaron Frank of Horseheads, New York; Rabbi Abby Cohen of Portland, Oregon; Rabbi Abby Michaleski of the Beth Israel Congregation; Rev. Abhi Janamanchi of Bethesda, Maryland, Rabbi Abram Goodstein of the Congregation Beth Sholom; and Rev. Adam Russell Taylor.
King and his wife, Arndrea Waters King, organized the leaders and wrote the letter. The African American Christian Clergy Coalition joined them. Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Faith in Public Life and others joined.
The Congressional Black Caucus has pushed legislation, including two voting rights bills blocked by the GOP.
“This year, American democracy faced extraordinary challenges, from the violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol to over 30 anti-voting bills pushed through state legislatures, intentionally designed to silence Black, Brown, indigenous, immigrant, low-income, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and elderly and young voters,” the faith leaders wrote.
“During this season of giving and community, we are painfully aware that the promise of American democracy is thwarted by systemic racism and a system that works for the few at the expense of the public good.
“It will continue on this path without prompt, substantive federal action. During the Civil Rights era, prominent leaders were driven by their faith to fight for equality. This is why we continue the push for voting rights today. Our faith teaches us that each one of us deserves dignity and freedom.
“We cannot be clearer. You must act now to protect every American’s freedom to vote without interference and with confidence that their ballot will be counted and honored. Passing comprehensive voting rights legislation must be the number-one priority of the administration and Congress.
“Nothing, including the filibuster, should stand in the way of passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which have already passed the House and await Senate action and leadership.
“The communities we represent will continue to sound the alarm until these bills are passed. While we come from different faiths, we are united by our commitment to act in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.
“On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, we will accompany Martin Luther King III, Arndrea King, Yolanda Renee King and voting rights advocates across the country to honor Dr. King’s legacy by calling for Congress and the president to restore and expand access to the ballot for all voters. It’s time to stop lamenting the state of our democracy and take action to address it.
“As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so valiantly said in his ‘Give Us the Ballot’ address, “the denial of this sacred right [to vote] is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.
“That is why this Martin Luther King Day, we will not accept empty promises. Congress must serve the nation and future generations by immediately passing voting rights legislation.”