By Juanita Bratcher
A few weeks ago there were various articles circulating in newspapers and on the Internet stating that a few Black ministers are urging Blacks to go fishing on Election Day, November 6, 2012.
According to the articles, the few ministers complaining have a problem with President Barack Obamaâ€™s support of gay marriage and Republican Candidate Mitt Romneyâ€™s Mormon faith.
Specifically, the ministers claim that their congregants question why a true Christian could support same-sex marriage (referring to President Obama), and question Republican Candidate Mitt Romney because of the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and also a former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.
The articles jostled my mind. Certainly, I was baffled to say the least. The Bible states in St. Matthew 7: â€œJudge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
Why would Black ministers even go there, or any black leader for that matter â€“ urging Blacks to go fishing on Election Day? Are they out of their minds? Have they lost it? Why would they urge church members to stay away from the polls in such a crucial election year? There are so many aspects of this election â€“ Senate races, House races, and of course the presidential race; and somewhere down the road, perhaps, appointments of about two new Supreme Court Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Did they (ministers) forget â€“ or is it meaningless to them â€“ the suffering, the humiliation and the frustration Black forefathers encountered and endured in their efforts to get the right to vote in this country, and under tumultuous circumstances? In their efforts to register and vote, through blood, sweat and tears to let their voices be heard at the ballot box on Election Day, they were faced with tear gas, billy clubs, water hoses and attack dogs. They were turned away by the Bull Connors of Alabama who would deny them their right to vote as American citizens.
Incensed, Whites responded by putting the names of all Blacks eligible to vote on a hit list, circulating it to white businessmen who retaliated by firing them from their jobs, denying them credit and raising their rent.
But first and foremost, did those ministers forget that many of those in the fight to gain voting rights for blacks in this country, the United States of America, bled and died for the right to vote? Many faceless people â€“ not just Blacks â€“ but other ethnics as well, put their lives on the line to help Blacks in their effort to get the right to vote.
Two White civil rights activists, Jonathan Daniels, an Episcopal divinity student from Cambridge, Mass., died in Lowndes County, Ala., and Father Richard Morrisroe, a Roman Catholic priest from Chicago, was seriously wounded during voters registration drives in Selma, Ala.
Moreover, three civil rights activists engaging in voter registration efforts – Andrew Goodman, White, 20 years old; James Chaney, Black, 21; and Michael Schwerner, White, 24, disappeared in a small town in Mississippi, and subsequently were found dead.
And Rev. George Lee, a black businessman, courageous actions to register black voters in 1954, ultimately cost him his life.
Lee printed and passed out leaflets urging Blacks to pay their poll tax so they could register to vote. “Lee knew his days were numbered, but he ignored the pleas of his wife, Rose, to back off. On Saturday before Mother’s Day in 1955, Lee was driving home when gunfire from a passing car blew half his face off. Notwithstanding the evidence, and the fact that everybody in town knew who did it, the sheriff concluded that Lee died of unknown causes.”
Even after Blacks gained the right to vote, they were stymied by a menacing poll tax, used as an impediment to African Americans voting in federal elections.
The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in January 1964, prohibited the poll tax. And in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation which suspended literacy and other tests for voter qualification.
Voting is a privilege. Itâ€™s imperative that registered voters make it a priority to participate in the democratic process, and go to the polls on Election Day and vote for the candidate of their choice; that they lend their voices in shaping policy all across the spectrum, on a myriad of issues.
Blacks should be mindful that efforts by Black forefathers to gain the right to vote in this country is something we should never take for granted and abandon the ballot box altogether. Then, too, they should also be cognizant that low voter turnout allows the minority to make decisions for the majority.
In essence, going fishing on Election Day adds up to a non-vote and gives oneâ€™s rights away to those who do show up at the polls to vote.
In an effort to combat a recent rise from African American pastors (The Coalition of African-American Pastors) who are urging their congregation not to vote because of President Obama’s position on gay marriage, San Antonio pastors have gone on record to speak out on the issues of gay marriage, women’s rights, healthcare and civic duty to vote.
Bishop David M. Copeland of New Creation Christian Fellowship, says “The President is not your pastor- in-chief but the President of all Americans.”
Pastor Kenneth Kemp of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, says “We must respect women’s rights for equal pay for equal work and access to care.”
Bishop Alfred Blue of Family Life International Ministries, comments, “We have a civic duty according to the word of God and we have a right to be heard.”
Voters are encouraged to review this video collection of some of the most outspoken pastors in San Antonio at www.blackvideonews.com and the Black Video News YouTube channel.
For more detailed statements from theses pastors, please review the video presentation at http://youtu.be/FTcvl-9epwA
In 2012, weâ€™ve witnessed the shenanigans of Republican governors and Republican Legislatures across the country engaged in passing Voter ID laws and purges of voter registration rolls which will disenfranchise thousands of voters in the 2012 election. Voters should be running to the polls in large numbers to vote in order to counteract some of this madness.
It is important that citizens exercise their right to vote, inasmuch as it not only gives them the opportunity to elect representatives that will work in their best interest, but ensure them a stake in the legislative process. The ballot is a powerful weapon to effect change.
Certainly, ministers are entitled to their opinions as anyone else. But instead of them suggesting to their flock to go fishing on Election Day, they should do their own individual thing of abandoning the polls and quit poisoning the minds of others to do so.
On a personal note, if I was a member of any church where a minister lectures the congregation on staying away from the polls on Election Day and go fishing, I would immediately be looking for the nearest exit doorâ€¦forever – and would find a new House of Worship.
Juanita Bratcher is an award-winning journalist and the Publisher of www.copylinemagazine.com. She is the author of several books, songwriter and poet. Bratcher has been a Journalist for more than 35 years covering politics, education and a wide-range of other topics.