In lieu of what’s perceived as an alarming trend of new voter ID laws implemented around the country, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches plan to unite for a faith leaders summit next week detailing strategy on voter registration and voter protection. Attorney General Eric Holder will speak at the summit which will take place at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington DC. Dr. Franklyn Richardson, the Chair of the Conference of National Black Churches and Dr. Jacqui Burton, President of the Conference, will also speak.
Several new requirements to vote have become law since President Obama was elected in 2008. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman will address the ministers and pastors to discuss the dos and don’ts of registration for religious institutions. There will also be a focus on how they can protect their tax exempt status while informing congregations on certain aspects of voter participation.
“The 2008 presidential campaign brought us not only a historic election, but record participation of minority voters. More than four million more African American and Latino voters cast ballots in 2008 than they did in 2004 …” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), said in a video presentation on the May 30 conference.
“But the record turnout of 2008 also triggered a backlash. Clearly this attack on voting rights is coordinated.”
Cleaver, who is also a United Methodist pastor, will speak at the conference as the CBC reaches out to Black ministers who have been at the forefront of civil rights efforts throughout the history of the African American experience. Many view the latest changes to vote laws as a systematic attempt to roll back those efforts.
The Congressional Black Caucus will urge ministers to implement a 90-day voter empowerment program starting in 60 days focusing on three themes. First: In August, faith leaders will be encouraged to to take up offerings for members in their congregation who can not afford to pay for a valid government issued ID so they may vote.
Second: In September, ministers and pastors will be encouraged to ensure members of their congregation are registered to vote in partnership with other organizations.
“We will equip the pastors with knowledge they need going into the election season that can both prevent them from getting into trouble by damaging their IRS standing while at the same time allowing them to receive the most up to date information from the Justice Department on what they can legitimately do,” said Cleaver. “Many pastors have been scared in to believing that they can not say anything,” he added.
“It has become increasingly evident that the civil rights that many shared their blood, sweat and tears fighting for years is once again in jeopardy — for example our sacred right to vote,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) in a video taped welcome urging people to attend the event.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Chief Congressional Correspondent, publishes the blog Crewof42 on the Congressional Black Caucus. She is heard every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET on WMCS 1290 in Milwaukee on Earl Ingram’s show The Evening Rush as well as on WPFW every Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Washington DC. You can e-mail her at LBurke007@gmail.com follow her on twitter at @crewof42.