SOCIAL ACTION CORNER
Did you know that the AME Church took positions on 13 issues during the 150th session of the General Conference in July 2016. During business session # 13 on July 12, 2016 at 8 pm., the Social Action Commission presented a paper with proposed positions focusing in several critical issues. Two of them are shared here as the United States of America faces a crisis of conscience in the era of the new Presidential administration. This background information should help to inform the ACTION that our Council of Bishops is urging us to take in the next 60 – 90 days. Know the issue! Learn the facts!
The United States has had a broken immigration system for years. Several presidents have promised to address the problem, including President Obama. The last president to successfully address the immigration issue, and it was only piecemeal, was President Ronald Reagan. During the administration of President Obama, the United States Senate passed immigration legislation two years ago, but the United States House of Representatives refused to act it. Much of the objection to the immigration legislation has come from conservative Republicans who charge that it provides amnesty for over 11 million illegal immigrants. Some of these leaders, particularly in this election season have called for the deportation of all illegal immigrants, including their children who were born in this country. They have also proposed building a wall across the US and Mexican border to keep Mexicans from crossing into the United States. It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives refused to act on the legislation passed by the Senate, which has only aggravated a major problem and polarized the nation even more. The nation is even more polarized by some of the candidates for president of the United States who have called for a temporary ban on allowing Muslims to enter the country, as well as refugees from war torn Syria.
We believe the failure to act on immigration, the call to deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants and the temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, is about more than amnesty and fears about terrorism. It is our belief that at the heart of the problem is the desire to maintain the status quo in this country. In a few years with immigration at its current pace, it is projected that the majority population in the United States will no longer be white, but people of color. This is frightening and unacceptable to some in the current majority population. Thus the call to deport more than 11 million Hispanics and other people of color, who while here work, many at menial jobs, and support the nation in many other ways. It is important to note that no one is proposing to build a wall, a fence or any other measures to halt or slow immigration across the northern border or address immigrants from European and other areas.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church calls for the reintroduction of the legislation passed by the Senate in the last Congress, and for it to be debated, amended and acted on by both houses in the 115th Congress to be seated in January 2017,and oppose any efforts to depose the 11 million illegal immigrants presently in the country, impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country or a ban on Syrian refugees who clear investigation and complete the visa process.
We are rapidly approaching November 8th, the day for national elections, when the nation will elect a president, members of Congress, governors, and a host of other state, county and municipal officials. This election more than any other in most of our lifetimes, offers voters a clear choice between the candidates and their position on issues. Unfortunately this election is also showing us something else, something it was our hope that we would not see again in our lifetimes. That is the effort to deny and prohibit people from exercising their right to vote. The deeply divided 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision in the case Shelby County v. Holder gutted Section 44 of the Voting Rights Act opening the door for states to change voting laws in a detrimental way. As a result nineteen states (19) have in place attempts to put in place laws and requirements which make it more burdensome and problematic to vote.
The ones who would be most negatively impacted if these laws and requirements are upheld will be Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and the young. This is not by accident, but is designed and intentional to dilute and reduce our vote. In the 2008 election there was record turnout among these groups which in large measure determined the outcome of many races, particularly the presidential contest. It was expected that the turnout of Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and young people in 2012 would not be as great as their turnout in 2008, but records show it exceeded the turnout in 2008. This angered and troubled some, prompting new laws and efforts to suppress their vote.
Some of the laws and requirements would require voters to have government photo identification that many people don’t have, for example those who don’t drive, other laws would shorten the time for early voting, which would impact minorities who more than others vote early. In other states some photo identification would not be valid while photo identification such as a gun license would be valid. Those who are pushing these laws argue they are pursuing them to decrease or end voter fraud. This claim itself is fraudulent because in states all across the nation the instance of voter fraud is less than one half of one percent or non-existent. In light of this clear and disingenuous attempt to diminish and suppress the minority vote it is imperative that we do all we can do to ensure that every citizen’s right to vote is honored.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church abhors attempts to suppress the vote of Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos and young people, as well as the Supreme Court decision which gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. We call upon the Congress to keep it’s word and act to amend the Voting Rights Act, and we support legal and other efforts to stop attempts to suppress our votes. We also commit ourselves and call other faith communions and organizations to register, educate and motivate as many people as possible to vote.
- In spite of the Executive Order by President Trump, the AME Church must continue to urge the 115th Congress to search for comprehensive legislative solutions including proposals that passed the US Senate but not the US House during the 114th
- The courts declared that the re-districting actions of state legislatures in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas were illegal. Corrective action was order immediately. North Carolina has been ordered to draw new lines by March 15, 2017 and hold an election in November, 2017. This is the first test re Voting Rights Act without Section 5 The AME Church must work collaboratively with the NAACP, and sister faith groups – AME Zion, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran Churches to mobilize the voters in North Carolina.
 This does not include the six papers presented the Office of the Research and Scholarship, Dr. Theresa Fry Brown, Executive Director.