American Civic Life

Moving Forward Together to Protect Our Democracy

By Alexis Vaughan and Chris Crawford 
Americans voting in an election. (adamkaz/Getty Images)

Americans voting in an election. (adamkaz/Getty Images)

“We do not all start from the same place, but we’re standing together now. And we have to stay together and march forward together.” 

These are the words that Bishop William J. Barber II said to Chris Crawford, Policy Advocate at Protect Democracy, six years ago that he will never forget. They are also the words that inspired Protect Democracy to partner with Interfaith America to create the Faith in Elections Playbook, a digital resource that guides faith-based institutions in the United States to support free and fair elections. 

At Interfaith America, we like to remind folks that the United States is the most religiously diverse democracy in the world. Still, the freedoms many of us enjoy are not guaranteed and need to be protected and expanded to include the marginalized among us. We believe that to quell the threats of authoritarianism, we must build a broad coalition of people who may have major disagreements on politics and policy but who are nonetheless willing to unite in defense of our democracy.  

As our country prepares to enter a presidential election year, amidst increasing polarization, we know this is not going to be easy! 

As Chris says, “I’m Catholic! It’s hard for Catholics to put aside disagreements to prioritize, well, anything. While I am a person of faith, Protect Democracy is actually not a religious organization, but we understand that religious communities are essential to building the type of coalition that can protect democracy. Every single person in this country has a role to play in defeating authoritarianism, and I do mean all of us.”  

Chris Crawford
Alexis Vaughn's Headshot
Alexis Vaughan

“We do not all start from the same place, but we’re standing together now. And we have to stay together and march forward together.” 

The interfaith world has learned that building effective coalitions is not about minimizing our differences, watering down our beliefs, and acting on the easier things. It means listening, understanding, and welcoming people to bring exactly who they are to this moment so that together we can prevail on the most pressing of issues.  

For Alexis Vaughan, Director of Racial Equity Initiatives at Interfaith America, this means that we need to focus on preparing ourselves for the long haul. 

“When I think about approaching another critical election year, I am reminded of the story of David and Goliath. It’s a popular story in Judeo-Christian traditions but typically only the end of the story where the little shepherd boy defeats the big bad Philistine is known. Similarly in elections, we typically tend to focus on the end result and ignore the process that got us to that result. Like David did in the story, we all need to recognize our unique talents and abilities and prepare ourselves well to use our talents in service of protecting our democracy.”  

Protecting democracy does take bold action at pivotal moments; but it also demands consistent, dutiful, ongoing activities that can hold our communities together.  

The Faith in Elections Playbook, which formally debuted at the Parliament of the World’s Religions this week in Chicago, will help prepare religious and ethical communities to actively participate in the election process. This issue-neutral, nonpartisan resource will include everything from learning how to sign up to work at the polls and find places that can serve as polling locations, to learning how to educate voters on how and where to vote, and guidance on how to conduct meetings with election officials that help to build bridges and understanding during a divisive election.   

No matter where we started, no matter how far apart some of us may feel right now, we must find a way to come together. Our hope is that the Faith in Elections Playbook will help make interfaith leaders of all of us and inspire our communities to take action and not be afraid in the face of long odds or threats to strengthen our democracy.  

Let’s move forward together! 

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