Faith leaders ramp up efforts to get out the vote

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Some leaders held press conference to endorse Warnock

Faith leaders are ramping up efforts to get out the vote during a crucial runoff election between Sen. Raphael G. Warnock and Herschel Walker, including giving rides to the polls for people who don’t have transportation and reaching out to congregants.

On Monday, more than 30 faith leaders - black and white and from various denominations - held a press conference at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta to emphasize the importance of voting. Some came from as far away as Florida, Texas and Illinois in support of Warnock.

Against a blue-and-white backdrop that read “100 + Clergy for Warnock,” Pastor Darryl Winston, the event’s organizer questioned Walker’s qualifications for the job.

“We know he is a football hero, but we can’t trust Herschel to carry Georgians across the goal line of progress for the betterment of the people without fumbling,” Winston said.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reached out to Walker’s campaign for comment.

On Saturday, the Rev. Timothy McDonald III was in Brunswick to deliver the eulogy for a longtime friend and classmate and even then, he told mourners the best way to honor the friend was to vote.

Then, on Sunday, McDonald was in in his own pulpit encouraging those in the pews to vote early.

“I said it would be an embarrassment if the state of Georgia elected Herschel Walker,” McDonald said. “I encouraged them to vote and explained what happened last time, We voted early but we didn’t show up to vote the day of. That’s how we lost. People thought their vote wasn’t needed. We’re not going to make the same mistake twice.”

Both Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Walker have often mentioned their faith while on the campaign trail.

McDonald recently signed a letter with 12 other Black pastors, who say they signed as individuals, to motivate people to vote. And they made no bones about throwing their support behind Warnock.

“This election was never just about Mr. Walker’s character,” the letter read. “It’s where he stands on the issues. We are talking about health care, jobs, opportunity, and equality.”

Such activism around voting is in the DNA of the black church, said Walter Earl Fluker, the Deans Professor of Spirituality, Ethics and Leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.

“Voting and the right to vote was one of our major prizes, if not the most important and sacred,” Fluker said.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson presiding prelate of the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said the letter and emails are being sent to congregations of various denominations around the state.

“I think voting early for the Black community is critically important,” said Jackson, one of the signers of the letter. He said the stakes are too high to stay home.

Georgia has one of the most restrictive voting laws, he said. He said the Georgia legislature “clearly put in provisions that directly impacted the African-American community,” including limiting the number and location of drop boxes and changes in absentee voting.

ExploreWarnock and Walker profess faith in different ways as they campaign

On Monday night, the Poor People’s Campaign of Georgia is scheduled to host several activists and faith leaders including its national co-chairman Rev. William Barber II, at Cascade Midtown at 7 p.m. to address voting and issues facing the nation.

According to a spokeswoman, Barber, a nationally-recognized civil rights and religious leader has been in Georgia for several days to encourage voting among poor and low-income residents.