Bringing Our Souls to the Polls
October 30, 2020
Most voting guides out there offer recommendations for candidates and legislation that can accomplish change or reform in communities, but a religious institution does not have the authority to do so because of its status as a tax-exempt institution. For this reason, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Working Group (EIWG) of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles that I am a part, of decided to create a different kind of voter guide – Interfaith Voting Guide focused on a number of counties in Southern California. The voter guide emphasizes two things: 1) an easy-to-read, explanation of how the election will work this year, and 2) why our individual convictions and communities play an integral part in the electoral and civic processes in the United States.
When we thought about creating a voter guide, we thought about the urgency and complexity of the voting process because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations, including the elections commissions of numerous counties, are working to educate voters on how elections will be conducted this year. Unfortunately, the slew of information that floods inboxes and social media feeds often draws people away from this information. In our guide, we wanted to make an accessible, central hub that provides information for a comprehensive list of candidates, propositions, protocols, deadlines, and county-specific timelines. The guide is also available in Spanish.
Our guide is also unique because of the emphasis we make on the moral urgency that should drive individuals and communities to be civically engaged. We included numerous reflections by leaders of a diverse set of communities about our motivations and inspirations to vote, as well as provide links to non-partisan and faith-based organizations working to advocate for fair and accessible voting for all registered citizens. At the crux of this guide is the central message of the power of each person’s voice and representation of not just their values, but the spirit and struggles of the communities they represent in the ballot box.
The Reflection section of the guide contains scriptural references, discussion questions, and additional reflections from faith leaders that further uplift the need to discuss civic and political engagements of faith-based and spiritual spaces. Our guide is focused on the election but it is also a wider statement about how to bring our faith to the public square and honor a legacy of revolution and dissent towards injustice.
Tahil Sharma is the Regional Coordinator for North America for the United Religions Initiative, the world’s largest grassroots interfaith network. Tahil also serves as an Interfaith minister in residence with the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.