Co-moderator and his Alabama church emphasize importance of voting

‘Our faith should inform how we vote’

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama, is a supporter of the Vote Gone Viral campaign. (Photo courtesy of the Rev. Gregory Bentley)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Gregory Bentley, co-moderator of the 224th General Assembly, believes that this presidential election is a critical one for the United States, and he already has a voting strategy in mind.

“My voting ethic is simple,” said Bentley, longtime pastor of Fellowship Presbyterian Church in Huntsville, Alabama. “I vote for the person that I think is going to do the greatest amount of good for the most vulnerable among us, and if I can’t get that, then I vote for the one who will do the least amount of harm, and that’s what I’m doing in November.”

Bentley is proud that his church is taking part in Vote Gone Viral, a campaign being led by local grassroots organizations to get as many people as possible to vote.

“Our faith should inform how we vote and what we vote for,” said the Rev. Gregory Bentley, co-moderator of the 224th General Assembly. (Photo by Randy Hobson)

“It is our Christian duty to participate in anything that impacts the quality of people’s lives,” Bentley said. “Our faith should inform how we vote and what we vote for.”

Vote Gone Viral is a cooperative effort by Vote Huntsville, United Women of Color and INDIVISIBLE that is helping people of color and other disenfranchised voters in North Alabama to register to vote and get assistance with their absentee ballots.

“This campaign will use voter education, absentee ballot clinics, and transportation to the courthouse to target disenfranchised voters, especially those at higher risk from contracting COVID-19 while voting in-person,” according to the campaign’s Facebook page.

Vote Gone Viral, which often operates in conjunction with food distribution events, also has been active in voting rights restoration, said Susan Griffin, a member of the campaign’s steering committee.

“We’ve helped many, many people who thought that they could not vote because they had been previously convicted of a felony,” she said. “We’ve helped them either register or get their rights restored. A lot of them never lost their rights in the first place. They just thought they did.”

Griffin speaks highly of Fellowship Presbyterian as a supporter of the Vote Gone Viral campaign, which serves communities where voter turnout is typically low.

“Our first event was at Fellowship Presbyterian,” Griffin said. “That church has been just a tremendous supporter of good government and strong community and having everybody participate in the process and no one feel disadvantaged or that their voice isn’t heard or doesn’t matter,” she said, “so it’s been a really great partnership.”

Recently, individuals with the campaign spent much of the week in Hispanic areas, visiting places like grocery stores and beauty shops to reach voters, Griffin said.

Also, “we have events set up in cooperation with the Huntsville Housing Authority, so that we’ll be able to go into their facilities, which not only have low-income housing but a lot of senior citizens’ housing as well.”

Young people, such as those attending historically Black colleges in the area, are another important group to the Vote Gone Viral campaign.

Many college students “are voting early, just because of the possibility that school will be dismissed before Election Day, and they just want to be sure that they’ve been able to vote,” Griffin said.

Finding a way to alleviate student loan debt is an important issue for young people, Bentley said.

“Young people see their material conditions are worsening,” said Bentley, who’s also president of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We’ve got to find a way to provide relief to those who are just trying to better themselves. It shouldn’t be a penalty to go to college.”

Griffin said young people also are concerned about political corruption, police brutality and global warming.

The way “to get action on those issues that they care about is to become involved in the process,” she said.

For more information about voting and related issues, view the resources at www.pcusa.org/vote.


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