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Faith leaders called for rejection of proposed racially divisive maps
January 18, 2022

NASHVILLE, TN- Just one day after honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, this morning, pastors across Tennessee condemned the racially gerrymandered maps proposed by the Republican Supermajority. And ironically, while the pastors called on fair and community-based maps, the Senate Judiciary Committee did just the opposite by passing every partisan power grabbing map out of Committee to head to the full Senate floor.

Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings
Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings; image courtesy of Southern Christian Coalition

Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings, Retired Pastor of New Covenant Christian Church (DOC) in Nashville, opened the press call reminding everyone of the legacy and Martin Luther King Jr, “As Dr. King taught us, whatever our color, background or zip code, every American should have equal freedom to vote, an equal say in decisions that impact our lives. As he said, ‘voting is the foundational stone for political action'. Yet the maps that were released last week by the Tennessee Supermajority Legislature are a clear partisan political power grab that achieves its goal of power by dividing our racially minority communities, treating Tennesseans like pawns in a chess game, instead of people deserving of fair representation.” She continued, “Their map divides us along racial lines, and divides up Nashville's most diverse communities to dilute the power of their votes, which is not only immoral, but also unconstitutional, and a threat to our already vulnerable democracy.

“As a Christian and a pastor, I believe that all people are made in the image of God. We truly want to live in a democracy that represents the people, not the interests of politicians, not the interests of our leaders. Our leaders must honor and respect the right of every person to be heard and represented, denying and manipulating representation. Though gerrymandering only leads to the silencing of the voices of those who are already ignored in our political process. It is the duty of our elected officials to embody and enact the will of the people, not to silence those voices they feel are counter to their own.”

Rev Eugene Se’Bree, Associate Pastor of Jefferson St. Missionary Baptist Church, started by lamenting how often he has to call Tennessee’s elected leaders to task. “I want to state as a person of faith, and also as an African American who believes in democracy, just like Dr. King, I believe that no matter what our color, our background, or zip code, voters should have the right to pick their leaders, not the other way around. I stand in agreement with those that say these maps proposed by the Tennessee Supermajority Legislature are immoral and must be rejected in favor of fair and bipartisan maps. These proposed maps are a clear example of gerrymandering [...] Representation is a foundational tenet to democracy. Gerrymandering should not be acceptable in our democracy.

Rev. Gordon Myers, Retired Pastor in the Evangelical Church of America and Organizer with the Poor People’s Campaign, pointed out that these maps would give the 38% of Tennesseans who have voted for Democratic representation would only receive 11% of statewide seats. He went on to say, “Government derives its moral authority directly from the people that are governed, and it works best when every one of the people have equal opportunity and access to representation and participation. It's ironic that sadly, yesterday, the social media accounts of so many elected officials shared the words of honor for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Words that are in sharp discord with what these maps do.”

Rev. Dr. Judy Cummings ended the press call by saying, “no matter our color, background, or zipcode, every American should have equal freedom to vote and have equal say in decisions that impact their lives. Throughout our history, guided by leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we have fought to ensure more Americans have their freedom to vote honored, and that every American is able to cast their vote and have it counted. We do look to our leaders for moral leadership and authority. But sadly, right now, the majority of Tennessee's elected leaders are inflicting the same injustice that the Civil Rights Movement fought valiantly to address by making it harder to vote and creating gerrymandering and divisiveness in order to hold power and rule for themselves, the wealthy few. As Dr. King said, ‘ voting is the foundation for political action’. So we are calling for a rejection of the proposed divisive maps. And for our senators to exercise their majority, eliminate the filibuster, and ensure that we can safely and freely cast our ballots ensure that trusted local election officials count every vote and prevent partisan politicians from sabotaging the results of our election.”

What Martin Luther King Jr. said about voting rights and why celebration without legislation dishonors his legacy
What do you see in Tennessee’s new legislative map?
Republican maps are undermining democracy

About Southern Christian Coalition
The Southern Christian Coalition is a nonpartisan grassroots, ecumenical organization. Across the South, politicians use ideology in the guise of Christian theology to push policies that harm our communities and isolate us from our neighbors. We are a community of Christians, speaking up on the values of our faith.

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