PORTLAND, Maine (RNS) — More than 125 religious leaders and people of faith in Maine have signed a letter calling on lawmakers to support the For the People Act, adding to substantial religious pressure on elected officials to pass the sweeping federal voting rights bill.
In a news conference unveiling the letter at Portland’s Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church on Tuesday (Aug. 10), a trio of faith leaders championed various provisions of the For the People Act, which would overhaul federal election law in ways advocates say will help vulnerable Americans vote.
“Working for this legislation is a faithful response to the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity,” said the Rev. Donna Dolham, minister at Allen Avenue.
Dolham and other speakers directed their remarks toward Sen. Angus King, an independent who typically caucuses with Democrats, as well as Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who sometimes operates as a rare swing vote in an evenly divided Senate.
Speakers echoed faith leaders in Georgia, Texas and elsewhere who have expressed outrage at efforts by state-level lawmakers to pass legislation the faith leaders say would restrict voting rights — laws that would likely be challenged by the For the People Act.
“This is the nexus of public policy and faith for me: Members of Congress take an oath under God to protect and defend the Constitution. That also includes protecting the rights guaranteed to individuals under the Constitution,” said Marge Kilkelly, a former King staffer and state lawmaker who also serves on the board of directors of the Maine Council of Churches as a lay Episcopalian.
“Those rights are being stolen by state legislatures to benefit themselves. ‘Thou shall not steal’ is one of the Ten Commandments in both Hebrew and Christian traditions.”
Pious Ali, a Portland City Council member who also spoke at the news conference, invoked an Islamic prohibition against oppression when explaining his support for the For the People Act.