“But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Amos 5:24 NRSV
American democracy is at an inflection point. Voting rights are again hanging in the balance and as the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) we are compelled to speak out about the urgency of passing critical legislation to ensure the right to vote in our nation. The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which have now been combined and passed the House of Representatives, must also pass the Senate.
Our history compels us.
The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA adopted a Human Rights Policy Statement in 1963, setting forth general principles related to the inherent worth, rights and responsibilities of all persons. The statement recognizes:
“The right to full participation of the person in political and civic life, including the opportunity: to vote by secret ballot…the right to vote is a basic human right”
The NCC was also actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement, including having our leaders march with the late civil rights icons Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Congressman John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We must remain vigilant and resolute to make sure the right to vote is protected.
Our faith compels us.
The 1963 statement also set forth our belief as Christians that “human beings are made in the image of God, that every person is of intrinsic worth before God, and that every individual has a right to the fullest possible opportunities for the development of life abundant and eternal. Denial of rights and freedoms that inhere in an individual’s worth before God are not simply a crime against humanity; they are a sin against God” (1963 Statement, using inclusive language.)
Throughout the years and at pivotal moments in history we have reaffirmed these beliefs and statement. This time is no different. We believe that the Church, other faith partners, and civil and human rights advocates must take a stand as the beloved community, articulated by Dr. King:
“An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (Dr. King, Jr, Letter from a Birmingham Jail)
Our conscience compels us.
When rights of one are denied, we are all impacted. We must stand together to ensure the full acceptance and citizenship for all in our society, guaranteeing and protecting each person’s human rights on an equal basis. The right to vote is the very center and core of a fair and free democracy. To deny access to the vote is to deny the very humanity and sacredness of those denied. We call upon the Administration and Congress to live up to the promises made by this nation’s founders when they asserted that all were created equal and pass voting rights legislation that will remove barriers to the ballot. We call for the passage of The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.
We call for the passage of these bills by any means necessary, including the end of the filibuster that has historically been used to block the voting rights of African Americans. The filibuster is a relic of the Jim Crow era and should not be allowed to upend voting rights now. In 1957, Senator Strom Thurman set the record for longest individual filibuster when he spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes to oppose the Civil rights Act of 1957. In 1964 Senator Richard Russell, Jr. led other political leaders to hold up passage of the Civil rights Act of 1964 for 60 working days.
This is a moment for us to act. This is a moment when we must stand up and speak out as people of faith and conscience, calling on the Senate to end the filibuster and pass these critical pieces of voting rights legislation and ensure the right to vote. Indeed, as the song says, “we who believe in freedom shall not rest until it comes.” (Ella’s Song, Sweet Honey in the Rock) #VotingRightsAreHumanRights.
From NCC’s Governing Board:
“The right to vote is one of the markers of a democratic society. Protecting the right to vote is the duty of elected officials in order to preserve equality and inclusivity for ALL citizens.” – Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Governing Board Chair and Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
“As a nation, we are at a critical juncture in protecting our democracy. Fifty-six years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, many in this country still face racial disparities and inequalities in accessing the right to vote. I urge passage of The Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. If enacted, it would do much to further the ELCA’s resolve to call upon local, state, and federal governments to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens and to discourage or eliminate all laws, ordinances or regulations that would have the effect of racial and ethnic discrimination in the exercise of that right. Please join me in praying for our Congress, our president, and members of the Supreme Court. In the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, NCC Governing Board Vice Chair and Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
1 John 3:18 teaches us that we must love not only in word or speech but in truth and action. As Christians we must have the courage to not only speak truth but to mobilize to ensure that our human dignity is affirmed and protected through the ballot, and that we hold each other accountable for maintaining a society that reflects the limitless love of God through Jesus Christ.” – Rev. Terri Hord Owens, NCC Governing Board Treasurer and General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada
“I consider passage of the voting rights bill to be the single most important matter before congress right now. The very foundations of our democracy are being dismantled as red state legislators rewrite voting laws, giving new powers to state officials to overturn legitimate election outcomes and restricting voter access. The Senate must, by any means necessary, finish the work of the House and establish Federal protections for voting rights or be remembered throughout history as those whose failure to lead ended democracy as we knew it.” – Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer, Past Chair of the NCC Governing Board and General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, National Ministries
“My prayer is that this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend will provide Members of Congress a moment of respite to reflect on the meaning of his life and the immensity of the struggle he and millions of others waged to secure the right to vote. If they truly do so, I believe they will return to Washington next week and vote to pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.” – Mr. Jim Winkler, NCC President and General Secretary
“A near-sacred cornerstone of this ideal of democracy is the vote. The individual’s right to vote, and our respect for the collective will of the people expressed in their votes, are foundational to the temple that is democracy. The vote and the collective will of the people must be upheld as sacred and inviolate; it must be respected and protected, ‘that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.’ Let us be people of conviction and choose the promise that is before us.” – The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church
“The United Methodist Church advocates for free and fair elections, beginning with the sacred right to vote guaranteed to all adult citizens. Today the sacred right to vote is jeopardized by the increasing suppression of the vote for many citizens of the United States. We call upon the Senate to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4) and the Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747) in recognition and celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” – Bishop Sally Dyck, Ecumenical Officer for the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church
“The Church of the Brethren has asserted that, “We believe that government…can be strengthened by participation of its entire citizenry…[and] we support steps by our government to recognize the full enfranchisement of all of our citizens.” In both our church and the country in which we reside, we aim to make this a reality. Though this has been imperfect in practice, we strive and urge for full and just participation for all.” – Rev. Dr. Nathan Hosler, Ph.D., Director of the Office of Peacebuilding and Policy at the Church of the Brethren
“The voice of every citizen of our country in an election should matter to all of us. Because to exclude one segment is to threaten every segment. We urge the Senate to reject attempts to restrict voting of people of color, students and the elderly. Silence no one. Lift every voice!” – Bishop Francis Krebs, Presiding Bishop of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion
“Exercising the right to vote is foundational in a democracy. Our moral and civic values demand protection of access to voting for all citizens.” – Bishop Jeffrey N. Leath, African Methodist Episcopal Church
“It is very unfortunate and despairing that after more than 50 years after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. that this country will not stand up for the voting rights of all Americans. It is a sad day in this country’s history. We must never relent in our pursuit for justice!” – Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman of the Conference of National Black Churches and Governing Board Member
“Voting rights are human rights! Let’s stop voter suppression. Every citizen should have equal and easy access to vote. The Senate must pass The Freedom to Vote Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” – Rev. Phil Tom, Executive Director of The International Council of Community Churches
Past NCC Statements:
NCC Statement One Year After the Attack on the US Capitol and 2020 Election
The Dangers of Christian Nationalism in the United States: A Policy Statement of the National Council of Churches
Resolution to Reaffirm Commitment to Voting Rights Act
Human Rights: The Fulfillment of Life in the Social Order