MAINE – Clergy and Faith Leaders Urge Sens. Collins and King to “Support the ‘For the People Act’”

Say the legislation “is the bold, comprehensive bill we need because the threats to our democracy are deep, systemic, and wide-ranging”

A letter from more than 125 Maine clergy and faith leaders to Senators Angus King and Susan Collins was released today during a press conference in Portland. The letter includes a litany of “assaults” on our democracy and describes “the urgent need” to pass the For the People Act.

Sen. King has cosponsored and voted to advance the For the People Act. Sen. Collins voted to block debate on the bill earlier this summer.

Read the full letter here.

“Our public policy priorities are based in justice and fair treatment for all,” said Marge Kilkelly, an Episcopalian lay woman and member of the Maine Council of Churches Board of Directors. “We begin and end with the conviction that all persons are equally valued and we advocate for a society that values the sacred worth of every person.”

The letter observes that “Harmful Supreme Court rulings like Shelby and Citizens United have accelerated disturbing trends of voter suppression and big donor influence on policy-making. They undermine the integrity of our democracy and enable oppressive systems to grow stronger.”

It outlines several “assaults” that “threaten our democracy and the well-being of our people hangs in the balance–especially in communities of color. Millions of Americans, particularly in marginalized, Black and Brown communities, will have their votes suppressed if leaders fail to pass federal protections and standards of access for exercising the sacred right to vote.”

“Working for this legislation is a faithful response to the belief that all people have inherent worth and dignity,” said Rev. Donna Dolham, of the Allen Avenue UU Church.

“Maine has always been a leader in democracy, and election rules already reflect many of the values reflected by the For the People Act,” the letter says. “As people of faith, we are also mindful of our less-fortunate neighbors who are facing disenfranchisement from barriers to voting in other states.”

“My faith teaches me to not allow myself to be oppressed,” said Pious Ali, a leader in Portland’s Muslim community and at-large member of the Portland City Council. “It also teaches me not to sit by while others are being oppressed and that I must do, in my way, whatever I can to stop that oppression.”

The letter describes the For the People Act as “the bold, comprehensive bill we need because the threats to our democracy are deep, systemic, and wide-ranging. The government has an important role to play in protecting our democracy. Now is the time to exercise that authority with reforms that better reflect the democratic ideals we hold dear. Our faith calls us to support the most vulnerable, nurture human potential, root out systemic racism, and advance justice in our society.  Collectively, we need an inclusive, representative and responsive democracy to answer that call. As people of faith and as your constituents, we ask that you support the For the People Act.”

The For the People Act would make it easier to vote, limit the influence of money in politics, and require congressional districts to be drawn by a non-partisan commission. It is supported by 69% of voters nationwide — including more than half of Republicans and 70% of independents. Its proposals to limit the influence of money in politics are particularly popular, supported by 84% of all voters and by eight-in-ten Republicans.

Republicans in the Senate have blocked the bill since 2019. Most recently, on June 22, 2021, Senate Republicans blocked any debate on the bill. But according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the US Senate still has “several serious options for how to reconsider this issue and advance legislation.”

The US Census Bureau plans to release raw data for redistricting on August 12. The For the People Act creates a non-partisan, open process to draw transparent and fair congressional district maps and end map manipulation, which could be used in the upcoming redistricting process. Nationwide, 72% of voters support requiring all states to use non-partisan commissions to draw congressional districts — including 59% of Republican voters.

Watch the press conference here.