Harris, Warnock, push for voting rights at MLK service


More than 60 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joined his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in November 1959.

In his first sermon as co-pastor of Ebenezer, “The Three Dimensions of a Whole Life,” Dr. King spoke about “what God needs today.”

“Men and women who will ask themselves, ‘What will happen to humanity if I don’t help?’ Dr. King preached, ‘What will happen to the civil rights movement if I don’t participate What will happen to my city if I don’t vote What will happen to the sick if I don’t visit them This is how God ultimately judges people .

Speaking from that same pulpit on Monday, the church’s current senior pastor, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, gave a powerful and passionate speech in defense of the right to vote at a service honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King.

What do you want to know

  • Vice President Kamala Harris and Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock called on Congress to pass the right to vote during a service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in honor of the life and legacy of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Let the word out: you can’t remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time,” Warnock said at the event, urging people to read his 1957 “Give Us the Ballot” speech. “If you want to say his name, you have to defend the right to vote”
  • Vice President Kamala Harris has issued a similar warning — “Our freedom to vote is under attack” — as President Joe Biden and Democrats work tirelessly to pass voting rights legislation in Congress.
  • According to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states passed 34 restrictive election laws in the past year

Warnock invoked the memory of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with Dr King for suffrage on the march from Selma to Montgomery and said that “even without words our march was worship – I felt my legs were praying”.

“We have to pray with our lips, and we have to pray with our legs,” Warnock said. “Our nation needs our prayers. We are at a critical moment. »

“I know at this time of year everyone lines up to praise and commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.,” he said. “Everyone loves Dr. King. They just don’t always like what he stands for.

“Everyone is quoting Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend,” he continued, noting that most people will likely quote his “I Have a Dream” speech, but encouraged people to read the speech.” Give Us the Ballot” from 1957, the first time Dr. King spoke in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.

“All types of conspiratorial methods are still being used to prevent black people from becoming registered voters,” Dr King said. “The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent demand of the President of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote.

“Give us the ballot and we won’t have to worry the federal government about our basic rights anymore,” Dr King continued. “Give us the ballot, and we will no longer plead with the federal government for the passage of an anti-lynching law; we will, by the power of our vote, write the law in the Southern law books. and end the dastardly Give us the ballot and we will turn the salient misdeeds of bloodthirsty mobs into the calculated good deeds of orderly citizens.

“Was he speaking then?” Warnock asked. “Or was he talking about now?”

“I ask the question because I’ve been on that mountain right now, time and time again,” he continued, “And I know politicians, in particular, God bless their hearts, will want to be seen standing up. where Dr. King was standing.”

“Let the word out: you can’t remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time,” Warnock said at the event. “If you want to speak his name, you must stand up for the right to vote, you must stand up on behalf of the poor, the oppressed and the disenfranchised.”

Warnock said the arguments against suffrage legislation now resemble the arguments against civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

“We are somewhere between January 5,” Warnock warned, referring to last year’s historic election that sent him and fellow Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff to the Senate, “and January 6 violence, racism , sectarianism and anti-Semitism. The question is, which direction are we going to go?

Later in the service, Vice President Kamala Harris issued a similar warning: “Our freedom to vote is under attack.

President Biden and Democratic leaders have worked tirelessly in recent weeks to advance voting rights legislation in the face of Republican filibuster and state-level efforts, much of it in state-run houses. by the GOP, to restrict access to the ballot box.

According to a tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, 19 states passed 34 restrictive election laws in the past year, the most since the group began tracking such legislation in 2011.

“In Georgia and across our country, laws are being passed that could make it harder for 55 million Americans to vote,” she continued, adding that supporters of those laws “are also working to interfere. with our elections and get the results they want” and calling these efforts antithetical to democracy.

“We know this attack on our freedom to vote will be felt by every American, in every community, in every political party,” she said. “We know that if we stand idly by, our entire nation will pay the price for generations to come.”

The House of Representatives voted last week to pass a bill that combines the Democrats’ two main voting rights bills — the Free Suffrage Act and the Advancing Voting Rights Act John Lewis — and sends them to the Senate, setting up a congressional showdown over access. at the ballot box.

The sweeping Freedom to Vote Act, which has the crucial backing of moderate Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, would make Election Day a holiday, create a national voter ID standard, crack down on long voting lines in polling places, would expand the mail-in voting and mandated states, provide a minimum number of days for early voting. It would also ban partisan gerrymandering of redistricting cards, overhaul campaign finance reform, and make it a federal crime to harass or threaten election officials.

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act would update and restore provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was gutted by the Supreme Court in separate rulings in 2013 and 2021.

The bill passed in a party-line vote, with no Republican support. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to pass thanks to the chamber’s legislative filibuster threshold for major bills.

“It’s time for the US Senate to do its job,” Harris said. “The Senate must pass this bill now.

“Today we must not be complacent or complicit,” she concluded. We must not give up and we must not give in.”


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