'Democracy is on the ballot': Church and synagogue leaders partner to push the importance of voting

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Sunday, October 23, 2022
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Souls to the Polls is a partnership between St. Joseph AME Church and Judea Reform Congregation.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- On this Social Justice Sunday at St. Joseph AME Church, the congregation is urged to vote.

Pastor Jay Augustine says regardless of a person's political preference they want voters to take the midterm election seriously.

"Democracy itself is on the ballot in the United States. If you think about the turn our country has taken over the last few months," Rev. Augustine said.

That's why he and Rabbi Matthew Soffer of Judea Reform Congregation have their faith communities involved in Souls to the Polls.

Before this caravan arrived at the precinct located inside North Caroline Central University (NCCU) Law School, National Urban League President Marc Morial spoke from the church's pulpit.

"We're rallying people, reminding them of the pivotal importance of this election. We want people to know what's at stake, regarding the future of the country, Morial said.

The biggest concern for organizers is voter suppression and reports of possible voter intimidation by poll watchers.

Pastor Augustine says it's happening in America at a time when we have been more restrictive, trying to deny access to voting.

"We've tried to change curriculum in schools, to negate certain parts of American history. We're really trying to filter and not give out the wrong history. That's why it's so important that everybody get out and vote, and everyone expresses their citizenship interest by voting. Make sure America is truly represented."

So in addition to the early voting, Morial who is a former mayor of New Orleans, calls for a discussion.

"It's a discussion about why it's important to vote. This is about people supporting each other. This is about families supporting families. This is about people in the community encouraging each other to go out and vote. It's about people saying do you need a ride? Do you need some help?"

The Reverend Jonathan "Jay" Augustine and Rabbi Matthew Soffer spoke with ABC11 last week about the importance of the Souls to the Polls rally and the latest partnership between St. Joseph AME Church and Judea Reform Congregation.

"My brother, Rabbi Matt, is a dear friend. He's someone I care about deeply. Our congregations have been in collaboration in years past and once again we are collaborating. This time it is for a political purpose. Let me emphasize, not a partisan purpose but for a political purpose. And that is citizen participation," said Reverend Augustine.

"The point of it is action, and the point of it is making sure everybody has a voice," Rabbi Soffer said. "In Judaism, as long as people are being locked out of the voting booth, their voices being silenced, that in my tradition is tantamount to Israel still being enslaved by Pharaoh."

"However you choose to vote, please vote because it is your responsibility as a citizen. I would argue that is is the most important thing that we, as citizens of this wonderful country can do to express ourselves," said Augustine. "And we do that by voting."

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