Thursday, September 5, 2013

No Fear: Conference on Election Year Advocacy/Texas Interfaith

On August 18 and 19, I attended the conference led by the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy and held at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary: NO FEAR: Election Year Advocacy for Individuals and Communities of Faith. The Center’s first-ever conference on election-year advocacy was designed to help participants frame the connections between faith, politics, and public policy.  Conference speakers were: Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News and Houston Chronicle; Ben Philpott, KUT News and Texas Tribune; Joshua Houston, Texas Interfaith Center/Texas Impact staff attorney; Carolyn Boyle, chair of Texas Parent PAC; Froswa’ Booker-Drew is with World Vision as Community Youth Development Director for the Southeast region of the U.S.; and Ann Beeson who has been recognized as one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.

In the Conference, we talked about why Texas has such low civic participation, why that’s a concern for faith communities, and what we can do about it. The political experts offered insights into themes in the 2014 elections that will be of interest to people of faith.
The most startling piece of information I learned is that Texas is #51 in the nation for voter participation! (That includes the District of Columbia.) Since the U.S. has the lowest voter turnout of any democratic nation, that gives us Texans the very dubious honor of being the WORST IN THE WORLD for voter participation! My sisters, that is unacceptable! We simply cannot allow that situation to continue. Regardless of our political-party affiliation, we must encourage everyone to exercise the privilege and obligation to VOTE!
One of the dimensions of voter participation that I had not considered is the significance of relationships. Not only is our relationship with the candidate significant, but relationships with family and community can be very important—because we can encourage those people to vote. Even if we know our party affiliation is different, we can still urge them to vote. Ms.Booker-Drew has found that  isolation is the major source of suffering for people both individually and culturally. Likewise, isolation is the “glue that holds oppression in place.” If we connect with the little corner of the world that we call our home community, we are more nearly able to identify isolation, oppression and marginalization—and confront the situation.
Many political races are won/lost by fewer than 100 votes—sometimes as few as a dozen, in local races. So EVERY VOTE COUNTS! We must combat the lethargy of “My vote won’t matter anyway” by making people aware of this fact.
In another posting, I will discuss other items from the Conference.

 Rose Watson


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