Sundays are always special at the St. Philip Monumental A.M.E. church. But in October, the pews are often more packed, the sermon a bit more urgent and the congregation more animated, and eager for what will follow: piling into church vans and buses — though some prefer to walk — and heading to the polls.
Voting after Sunday church services, known colloquially as “souls to the polls,” is a tradition in Black communities across the country, and Pastor Bernard Clarke, a minister since 1991, has marshaled the effort at St. Philip for five years. His sermons on those Sundays, he said, deliver a message of fellowship, responsibility and reverence.
“It is an opportunity for us to show our voting rights privilege as well as to fulfill what we know that people have died for, and people have fought for,” Mr. Clarke said.
Now, Georgia Republicans are proposing new restrictions on weekend voting that could severely curtail one of the Black church’s central roles in civic engagement and elections. Stung by losses in the presidential race and two Senate contests, the state party is moving quickly to push through these limits and a raft of other measures aimed directly at suppressing the Black turnout that helped Democrats prevail in the critical battleground state.
“The only reason you have these bills is because they lost,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 A.M.E. churches in Georgia. “What makes it even more troubling than that is there is no other way you can describe this other than racism, and we just need to call it what it is.” [Continue reading…]