By Rev. Dr. Timothy James, administrative secretary of the National Convocation
“Your Vote Your Voice”, is the theme for the 2012 presidential election. This theme is a call for all American citizens to exercise their civil right to cast their ballot for the candidates and issues of their choice. It goes without saying that this election year has been full of conflict, controversy and concern. That is the nature of the season. Differences of opinion, philosophy and ideology are lifted up in order to demonstrate a candidates’ stand that may agree with yours or not.
When President Barak Obama said that he was in favor of same sex marriages, a wave of controversy went through the nation in general, and the African American community in particular. Many people just recognized this as a move to garner the gay vote. However, in the African American community, there were mixed emotions. The NAACP supported the president for recognizing the civil rights of gay persons as a step similar to the cause of African American protests and demonstrations for such rights in the nineteen sixties and seventies. But in many of our churches, Black pastors rebuked President Obama and renounced their support for his candidacy. Their argument says that he is going directly against scripture and forgetting the account of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some of our leading ministers have made it known that they will vote neither for President Obama or Senator Romney. They simply, will not vote at all and encouraged their members not to vote.
While I do respect peoples’ opinion, this latter opinion is unacceptable. The latter opinion is a turning back from our civil rights and our voting right. There are too many pertinent issues and offices at stake in this election. When I consider the literal sacrifice of blood, sweat and tears in order for African Americans to have the right to vote, we can’t turn back. When I recall, forty-nine years ago, shortly after the March on Washington and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, that four little girls were killed at the 16th Street Baptist Church by white racists trying to derail the Civil Rights Movement, we can’t turn back. When Malcolm X called for the “Ballot or the Bullet”, I thank God we chose the ballot. We can’t turn back! Let me encourage you to exercise our right to vote, because it is your voice.
ON THE WAY TO ELECTION DAY, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY!
This is a word of wisdom I would like to share with your pastors and church leaders as we approach the presidential election. As a religious organization and non-profit organization we are not to offer the direct support or advocacy of particular candidates who are running for office. Such action puts in jeopardy the 501-C3 status we hold in our congregation with our region. We are to encourage our constituents to participate in the voting process in a non-partisan manner. Many believe that the Black Church has traditionally instructed their members how to vote and who to vote for. So there are those who may be scrutinizing this process. So, be careful what you say. You may say or indicate how you personally will vote, but remind them that they have the right to vote for the candidate or issue of their choice. My mother always told me, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”