our callingFrom the President
Everybody deserves a voice
We are two short months from Election Day. Unitarian Universalists have been working to restore the promise of this nation's democracy, and our congregations have registered thousands of new voters—so far. With registration deadlines looming in only a matter of weeks, now is the critical time.
Fred Seidl, who has been helping our congregations organize voter initiatives since March, says September is when people will be most receptive to registration efforts. This gives us an opportunity for one last big push: to register eligible voters, encourage them to educate themselves on the issues and the candidates, get them to the polls on November 2, and help ensure that their votes get counted.
So much is at stake. Not only the presidential election, but hundreds of state and local contests may well determine the future of many issues Unitarian Universalists care deeply about: reproductive choice, same-sex marriage, civil liberties, racial justice, the environment, and economic justice.
Most of what we have accomplished this year has been achieved in partnership with others. Our Washington Office for Advocacy and Witness has played a leading role in organizing Faithful Democracy (faithfuldemocracy.org), an interfaith coalition dedicated to promoting civic participation grounded in religious values and creating and strengthening lasting community partnerships. Faithful Democracy has helped sponsor the Campaign for Communities, an organization founded by the NAACP National Voter Fund, the Earth Day Network, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, and Project Vote, that brings together low-income communities and various communities of color. The UUA and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee have been working together to provide maximum support for congregations without duplicating our efforts.
The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, one of our major partners in this work, urged us at the General Assembly in Long Beach this June not to take voter registration for granted, having found high percentages of unregistered voters where you would least expect them. Many of the new voters we have registered this year are themselves Unitarian Universalists.
“But what if you register the wrong people to vote?” someone asked Gaddy recently. “There are none,” he replied. “We want democracy to work. Registering people to vote is not about excluding anybody, it's about including everybody. We are registering voters to see that people of faith and good will function as an important part of the electorate—not first and foremost as Republicans, Democrats, Greens, or Independents, but as people of faith and good will who care about the nation and want a strong democracy.”
We are committed to affirm and promote the democratic process. “Every person's voice is weakened by low participation in voting,” in Fred Seidl's words. Mobilizing voters is not a partisan issue. It's about reclaiming our democracy.
It is also, when approached in this nonpartisan way, an appropriate issue for a religious organization. As Gaddy reminded us at GA, “Voter registration is an expression of conviction—political conviction about the importance of vibrancy in our democracy, religious conviction about the responsibility of people of faith and good will to participate in the shaping of this society.”
And it is an act of faith. Whatever your private political beliefs, I urge you to give them public expression. Add your hands to this work. Check in with your congregation, see what's happening in your community, and get out there. The Association can help. We have a full-time voting campaign consultant on staff in our Washington office. We have a wealth of resources posted on our Web site—see www.uua.org/news/2004/voting. We have only a few more weeks. Let's act on our faith and make a difference in November.