PHILADELPHIA — The religious right has been a strong and persistent force within the ultra-right coalition that took over the Republican Party and now controls the three branches of the government. Their extremist beliefs pose a threat to freedom of religion and democracy itself.
As a Unitarian Universalist (UU), I was overjoyed when my congregation, the Unitarian Society of Germantown, took a leadership role in the Northwest Interfaith Movement’s Voter Registration Project. Promoting democracy is one of the principles of our faith. I participated in a training session during the weekend of Sept. 17-19. That Friday evening, 27 UU’s from three churches in Washington, D.C., and Maryland joined 27 members from three churches in Philadelphia for dinner, followed by voter registration training.
We viewed a video, “Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election.” I was surprised that some people were unaware of the extent to which African Americans were disenfranchised in Florida in 2000.
We were guided through the procedures of registering Pennsylvanians to vote. Each state has different rules and regulations. It was emphasized that we must be nonpartisan because of the church’s tax status. Each Philadelphian was paired with an out-of-towner, given materials and assigned to a site.
The next morning it was raining when my partner and I, wearing our “Every Vote Counts” T-shirts, arrived at Cedarbrook Mall. We stood at the entrance of the Wal-Mart, a very busy site, approaching every person who walked in the door. Most were registered. We reminded them to vote. The response was positive and some people even thanked us for what we were doing. One man said, “I can’t wait to vote on November 2nd. We need a change!” That made my day.
By 4 p.m. I had only nine registrations, but they were like gold. My partner had 12. On Sunday our minister, Rev. Kent Matthiest, announced that the group had registered 274 people in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. As a follow-up, these registrants will be contacted and told where their polling place is located.
— Rosita Johnson (firstname.lastname@example.org)