On Thursday (January 6), 25 faith leaders from around the country announced that they will be going on a hunger strike for voting rights. Their announcement came on the one year anniversary of the riot at the United States Capitol.
In the wake of the 2020 election, voter rights have become a national focal point amid false allegations of widespread voter fraud. Former president Donald Trump and many of his supporters continue to contend that widespread fraud led to the election being “stolen” from him. This distrust in election integrity inspired not only a violent attack on the Capitol as Congress sought to certify the election results, but also subsequent legislation to restrict access to voting in 19 states.
One of those states is Georgia, which was an important swing state in the 2020 presidential election. Joe Biden won the state by a narrow margin.
In 2021, Georgia passed S.B. 202, which shortened deadlines on absentee ballot requests and submissions, increased identification requirements, and mandated limits on ballot drop boxes. The law also gave greater power to state legislatures and other partisan officials to disqualify ballots. While many Republicans saw the bill’s passing as a victory, President Joe Biden has called it “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”
Now faith leaders from across the country are coming together to call for national legislation that will protect and expand access to voting. The goal of the hunger strike is to pressure Congress to pass voter rights legislation by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is observed on January 17. Famously, Dr. King and the movement he led were instrumental in the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which abolished literacy tests and poll taxes that were designed to disenfranchise Black voters.
One of the faith leaders joining the hunger strike is Jamal H. Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Stonecrest, GA.
“As faith leaders, we are called to speak truth to power and to raise the conscience of this nation through moral resistance,” Bryant said in a press release. “This moment requires sacrifice and a deep commitment to radical love in action in order to redeem the soul of this nation and protect our democracy. I call on faith leaders to join me in this hunger strike continuing the tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. and Congressman John Lewis.”
“I want you to know that we’re not going to find justice breaking into the Gucci store. We’re not going to find justice breaking into Louis Vuitton,” Bryant told his church in the summer of 2020, when social unrest and rioting were sweeping across the country in response to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and others. “But we will find justice if we break into voting booths.”
Another pastor joining the hunger strike is Dr. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL. While Illinois is one state that passed legislation that actually increased access to absentee voting this year, Moss is joining other faith leaders to call for similar legislation on the national level.
“There’s some real strong support on both sides of the aisle,” Moss said. “People believe that everyone should have the right to vote and there should be no obstacle to anyone trying to vote.”
The Freedom to Vote Act is currently being considered by the U.S. Senate, but faces an uphill battle as it will require at least 10 Republican votes to pass.