Faith is at the forefront when the course of the Georgian Senate warms up

ATLANTA (AP) – Bishop Reginald Jackson stepped to the microphone at a drive-in meeting in front of the church at the Southwest Church in Atlanta as his voice carried a speaker and radio in, around and on top of the cars filling the parking lot. .

“Let’s stay blue in Georgia,” Jackson said. – Elect Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock to the United States Senate. The presidential bishop of more than 400 African Methodist Episcopal Churches in Georgia created a pastoral flourishing when the horns blew and supporters cheered, “If I have a witness, someone says amen!”

As Georgia becomes the country’s political hotspot in the winter ahead of the January 5 twin election elections, which will determine the control of the Senate, the faith-based organization will heat up.

Conservative Christians in the Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue gather behind, while black churches and liberal-minded Jewish groups support democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The fate of Democrats is seen as an entanglement in a state that, for the first time since 1992, was razor-bluish in the presidential election.

“These leaks are critical,” Jackson said. “We want to ensure that the turnout doesn’t drop.”

Across Georgia, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Africa is implementing a program to ensure that its members and black voters as a whole cast their ballots during the course – with a focus on postal and early personal voting. Pastors in each congregation remind tens of thousands of congregations a week to register for absentee voting and early voting, Jackson said in an interview. Each local church monitors congregations to make sure they have a voting plan.

The New Georgia Project, a non-partisan electoral mobilization group founded by Democrat Stacey Abrams, who will run for governor in 2018, is also preparing to leverage the influence of faith communities in establishing turnout.

Reverend Billy Honor, the group’s director of faith, said the Conservative Coalition for Christian Faith and Freedom, founded by Ralph Reed, former president of the Georgia Georgia GOP, has long positioned Georgia as “home to Lutheran fundamentalist types when it comes to the political space.”

“But the truth is that there has been an active, effective movement for a very long time for the progressive-minded, justice-centered clergy,” who have dealt with voting rights, health, and other issues in the state, ”Honor added. He said Warnock was part of that work before his nomination. Warnock is the chief pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a church led by the late Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Meanwhile, Loeffler and Perdue can expect to benefit from a conservative Christian base that has long boosted Republicans in the state. Faith and Freedom put Georgia among top three spending targets in $ 50 million non-voting program during the general elections, and plans have intensified the organization of the proceedings.

“The Lutheran vote in Georgia is very big and very strong,” Timothy Head, the group’s managing director, said in an interview.

The leader noted that while President Donald Trump was holding himself strong on white Lutheran voters this year, Perdue defeated Trump in Georgia during the general election. President-elect Joe Biden may have won some Lutherans by contrasting his character with Trump’s character, Head said, but he said the same case would be harder for Democrats to raise against Loeffler and Perdue.

Another faith-centered conservative group, the Legislative Subsidiary of the Family Research Council, holds trainings and pastoral briefings ahead of schedule. The anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, whose president advised Trump’s re-election campaign on Catholic outreach, announced a $ 4.1 million plan to bail Loeffler and Perdue through a partner political action committee.

Religious issues have already become the focal point of the campaign in the course. The GOP redistributed excerpts from past Warnock sermons to attack the military and anti-Israel as supporters. The Democrat signed a letter last year comparing Israel’s anti-Palestinian policy with “previous repressive regimes” and criticizing it in a 2018 sermon while calling for two states to be resolved in the region as well.

Warnock repressed a recent television ad saying the attacks “are trying to scare people by taking things I say out of context, since I have been a pastor for more than 25 years”.

One group that is raising Warnock against far-left Israel is the Republican Jewish Coalition, also mobilizing on behalf of GOP members in office.

Georgian Jewish Democrats have predicted that the GOP attack on Warnock’s Israeli registry will fall, citing a record of his friendship with the Jewish community through his Ebenezer pulpit.

Sherry Frank, president of the Atlanta section of the National Council of Jewish Women, said “there is no doubt in the Jewish community about Israel (Warnock)’ s position on Israel and anti-Semitism ”. Frank’s group is doing party-independent voter participation work for the proceedings.

Georgian Jewish Democrats in Ossoff and Warnock also see candidates whose joint Senate aspirations can be traced back to the tradition of black and Jewish leaders working together in the civil rights movement. Warnock is tied to a prominent Atlanta rabbi whose predecessor had a close relationship with King in the synagogue.

Warnock is seen as the “heir” to King’s legacy, said Michael Rosenzweig, co-chair of the Georgian chapter of the American Jewish Democratic Council, which supported both Democrats. “And to the extent that the Jews have supported the struggle for (and) support of, civil rights, I think they view Reverend Warnock as supportive.”

The Jewish Ossoff defended Warnock from criticism of the GOP against Israel and fondly recalled his own relationship with the late Georgian civil rights leader John Lewis, who approved Ossoff before his death in July. In October, Ossoff said that during their first meeting with Lewis, they talked about “the bond between the black and Jewish community that marched alongside rabbis and young Jewish activists in the mid-1960s … and how important it is that these communities. “


Schor reported from Washington.


Associated Press religious reporting receives support from Lilly Endowment through the Religious News Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for the content.