We are approaching the midnight hour for redistricting.
On September 14, the House Republicans release their proposed new maps for Indiana House and Congressional districts. A mere two days later, the House Elections Committee will hold a single day of hearings at the Statehouse for the public to weigh in. Senate Republicans will release their proposed maps for the Indiana Senate on September 21, with Senate Elections Committee hearings for public comment on September 27.
In anticipation of these formal actions on redistricting, a group of half a dozen Indiana faith leaders participated in a press conference sponsored by All IN for Democracy in front of the chapel in the Statehouse. Their mission: to appeal to the conscience of members of the General Assembly as they embark on weighty redistricting decisions that will effect all Hoosiers for the next decade. A video of that event is here (https://www.facebook.com/cacindiana/videos/3000412153562200)–a 32-minute listen that is well worth your time over a cup of coffee. It is our hope and prayer that elected members of our legislature will listen.
In the week ahead, several redistricting events are planned by All IN for Democracy that you may feel led to attend. On September 13 at 8pm Eastern, there will be an on line webinar to help equip anyone who wants to testify at the House Elections Committee hearings on September 16. The link to sign up is here Webinar Registration – Zoom. On September 16–the date of the actual hearings–there will be a rally on the Statehouse steps to call for fair maps. And a phonebanking/textbanking event to contact your elected representatives directly about fair maps is in the works (date to be determined). Please stay tuned for further details, and hold our representatives in the Light.
Faith leaders who participated and the printed remarks of all but one are included below in addition to Phil Goodchild’s opening.
Rev. Patrick Burke, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Angela Espada, Executive Director, Indiana Catholic Conference
Rev. David Greene, Purpose of Life Ministries
Pastor Beth Henricks, Indianapolis First Friends
Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation
Imam Michael Saahir, Nur-Allah Islamic Center
Good afternoon and welcome. Thank you for being with us.
Today’s event is sponsored by All IN for Democracy, a coalition of over 20 civic, social, and religious groups working for fair redistricting in Indiana. This is the third event this week in the coalition’s Fair Maps Week. We call it “Fair Maps: We Want to Have Faith in Our Legislature.”
I am Phil Goodchild with the Indiana Friends Committee on Legislation, a non-partisan Quaker group that has advocated for better government in Indiana since 1972.
We are at a moment in our civic life that is widely reported on as a political moment. Redistricting is described as a battle for power between two political parties. Who will have the upper hand in who is elected to our state legislature and to Congress? Who will control political power in Indiana for the next ten years? Huge political repercussions for years to come. All of this is true.
But our speakers today recognize that this isn’t just a political fight. It is much more than that. We are at a moment of moral choice. Those responsible for drawing new district maps have a moral decision right in front of them. They get to decide whose vote counts, and whose does not. Whose voices are heard, and whose are not. Who gets to shape our state’s future, and who does not. With the maps they aim to adopt in the next 30 days, will our legislators choose to perpetuate and strengthen democracy? Or diminish it?
Well, the faith leaders with us today have a perspective on this choice, and something to say to those making it. So here we are, right in front of the Statehouse Chapel, to urge our legislators to consider the moral dimension of the choices they face with redistricting. If they listen to us today, they should care that the new maps they draw are drawn fairly and represent all Hoosiers.
So let me introduce first Beth Henricks, Associate Pastor of Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting, to start us off with prayer.
Beth Henricks, Associate Pastor, Indianapolis First Friends Quaker Meeting
Dear God, we come together today as people of faith seeking your wisdom and guidance as our legislators make important decisions regarding drawing of our voting district boundaries. We hold them all in prayer and ask that they open their hearts and minds to your voice and the voices of your beloved Hoosiers throughout the state.
God, may these men and women step into this responsibility with a graciousness and concern for equality and fairness and may they not act out of fear or desire for power because your way always seeks justice, community and generosity of spirit. May our elected representatives act from a place of morality and rightness and may they seek out your path, your calling, your direction in this work.
We understand the great responsibility our legislators take on in their role as representing their citizens throughout the state. We are thankful for the time and commitment they make to serve our Indiana and to help create a beloved Kingdom that you desire for all of us, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, living in an urban or rural setting and regardless of the color of our skin. You call all of us to do our part in helping create this beloved kingdom on earth. May we hear that call and may we act in love as you love each of us.
We are thankful for your presence here today and we lift up to you all involved in this important work. May we honor you and seek your face and will in all that we do
This is an important issue to so many Hoosiers in our varied congregations. Please listen.
David Greene, Sr., Senior Pastor, Purpose of Life Ministries and President, Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis
Good Afternoon everyone! I am Rev. David W. Greene, Sr., Senior Pastor of Purpose of Life Ministries and President of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis. As a Christian, I truly believe that we are here today to fight for the heart and soul of our democracy. I am excited to see the different religious organizations who have assembled today to take a stand for the fairness in the Redistricting of our great state of Indiana. While we may not be under the same religious banner, we are truly committed to the same moral battle.
We are standing together today as a faith community concerned about fairness and transparency that impacts all Hoosiers. We’re not here today as Democrat, Republican, or Independent. We’re not here today as the religious left or religious right. We’re standing in the moral center of our deepest constitutional and religious traditions.
We urge all of our elected legislators to make a commitment to a fair and equitable process for Redistricting. It is strange that the very people who use people to get elected and obtain power would turn around and exercise their power to negatively impact voting Hoosiers for the next 10 years. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said when he spoke at the end of the Selma to Montgomery March, “Every time that there is the possibility for poor whites and poor blacks to come together and vote, we always experience such efforts as voter suppression and gerrymandering.” Dr. King said, “It gives us an impoverished democracy.”
We stand here today because we believe that the only way our democracy can be strengthen in Indiana is to have a fair and transparent redistricting process where suggestions and opinions are truly considered.
Again, we appeal to your moral conscious. Let me be clear that Gerrymandering is a sin. As a state, we do not give voting rights to parakeets, puppies, or pets. We only give it to the people of this state who are over the age of 18. As a result, if anything is done to suppress or gerrymander the votes of Hoosiers, it suggests that one has entered into God’s space and concluded that you can determine other people’s reality. Ultimately, you are suggesting that some people do not have the same “Imago Dei,” the image of God, that is in you. We must understand that Gerrymandering is political and theological idolatry. Yes, it is a sin. It has no place in our democracy.
I am reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people” (Isaiah 10:1-2). DO THE RIGHT THING! God is watching!
Imam Michael Saahir, Nur-Allah Islamic Center
My humble gratitude and thankfulness to be invited to be a part of this grand effort of the All IN for Democracy; a coalition for proper redistricting reform in Indiana.
Voting is a sacred right affording everyone the God-given right to exercise free conscious choices. Any and all efforts to deny, control, or alter the free exercise of conscious thought is an act against the Will of our Creator that all men and women are free; fully and completely free!!
The health and well-being of our voting process must be maintained on all levels and in all districts so that voice of the people remains sacred.
We ask that our Indiana General Assembly hold statewide public hearings for the public to give input on new district maps. It is imperative that our Indiana General Assembly extend the redistricting timeline to allow for meaningful public participation
The fight for justice continues; therefore our commitment to willingly and faithfully fight for justice cannot waver. As people of faith we must protect the sacredness of the voice and vote of every Hoosier, of every American. AMEEN!
Rabbi Brett Krichiver, Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation
What does it mean to speak with a prophetic voice? The biblical prophets themselves were not always comfortable with their task. The prophet Jonah heard God calling him to Nineveh to speak truth to power, and instead he fled. He hid from all who would call him to this sacred duty. But what is interesting about Jonah is that he runs away from the prophetic voice not because he is afraid he won’t be heard. He is afraid he will be heard. He fears his own success.
We gather today to find our own prophetic voice. Inspired by the caring and wise clergy who have spoken here today, the challenge still lies before us. Today is only a beginning. Gerrymandering has been a part of politics since 1812 and the very beginning of our Republic. We cannot change two hundred years of tradition, but we can rise up, and in one single unified clear moment of prophecy – we can magnify the voices of all those who have been disenfranchised, silenced, disregarded. Voters choose their representatives, not the other way around. You work for us, and by playing the redistricting game—do not be mistaken—you are attacking the right to vote, and you are weakening the voting power of communities of color.
Perhaps we are too afraid to fight harder for what is right, and for what is right in front of us.
In a few short days, we will mark Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the New Year for the Jewish community. These days are a special time to reflect on the lives we have lived, and the lives we will build in the coming year. These are days of atonement.
We take responsibility for the inequities in voting rights in this country; this is a change that should have happened long ago. We admit our failures to wrestle with a long American history of systemic racism, embodied by unfair redistricting practices done behind closed doors by the very people who most benefit from this particular form of oppression.
Indiana’s legislature has a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to represent all of Indiana’s citizens – Fair redistricting is a powerful tool in the fight against institutional racism. We call upon our government to represent us fairly, and to task an independent commission with the drafting of changes.
Let us fight racism wherever we find it
Let us stand together, as communities of faith and people of every color in the rainbow.
And let us continue to find strength in this time of the Jewish New Year, to use our voice of prophecy.
Rev. Patrick Burke, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Today we stand in our capital building to address the redrawing of our electoral maps that happens every 10 years. Yes this is a political process, but as people of faith we recognize that this is also a moral moment. It is time to recognize that this political process involves the wielding of power and whenever power is wielded it must be reviewed for the impact and through a moral lens. The impact is clear-decades of misusing political power in this process has led to polarization, disenfranchisement particularly of voters of color, and voter apathy resulting in reduced voter turnout and unequal access to political power.
>We call upon our legislators to make this a fair, transparent, and open process. And let’s be very clear, the redrawing of our legislative districts has not been open and transparent, and it most certainly has not been fair. Despite receiving 53.7% of the vote, just slightly above half of all the votes cast in 2012, one party received 69% of the seats. In a democracy that claims 1 person equals 1 vote, turning 53% of the votes into 69% of the seats is all about the party in power using this process of redrawing districts to skew the system to their favor. That is about preserving power not about equality.
>No division of districts will ever be perfect, but our system is egregious and completely unjust. And that is where we, as people of faith and as leaders of faith communities stand together today to say there is a moral imperative for a fair and just system to redraw our districts. We demand a non-partisan and independent commission that empowers each and every person with the same power and the same investment in the system. We need a system that will provide incentive to vote because the current system has led us to this place where we consistently have one of, if not the lowest, voter turnout rates in the country. The current system has led to millions feeling that their votes don’t matter, that their voices are ignored, and that they have no agency in our electoral system. That is not how democracy is supposed to work nor is it what God has intended for us.
As people of faith we believe that we are called to live lives of abundance-that our lives, all of our lives, are inherently valuable to the divine and to each other. Each of us is beloved. Each of us is worthy of living an abundant life. Each voice has agency and deserves equal representation. Our faith traditions implore us to advocate for a system that leads to 1 person equals 1 vote. Our faith traditions implore us to advocate for justice and equality.
Because here is the thing-if we want to improve our education system, reduce gun violence, or improve economic equality measures, or any of the other areas where Indiana struggles to do the basic work of government which is to provide for ALL of it’s citizens, if we want to improve in any of those areas it starts with equal representation and a system that encourages compromise, consensus, and values ideas from the diversity of backgrounds and experiences that are available to us here. Instead our legislators choose political power and political security over justice and the best outcomes for Hoosiers.
Make no mistake-for decades our politicians have chosen power over justice. Solving our problems is not going to be simple, but we can take a critical first step by simply taking away the conflict of interest inherent in politicians drawing these maps by creating an independent non-partisan group to draw fair and equitable districts in Indiana. And from that the waters of justice will have a chance to flow when our legislators, and their ideas and experiences, actually represent us. Justice for all flows from the decision that is made right now and we call upon and implore our legislators to do what is moral and what is just-implement the plan as outlined by All in for Democracy to draw districts based not on partisan algorithms but using common sense, and is centered on community input.
>As people of faith we believe that everyone should have an equal voice, a seat at the table, and an equal say in governance. Restricting anyone’s voice or their ability to have a seat at that table is against the abundant life that God desires for us. Gerrymandering is a moral issue and we have a moral imperative to ensure equal access to participating in the political process.
>So we stand before our legislators with a call to recognize that all Hoosiers deserve equal representation in government. We call on them to implement a non-partisan community centric model to redraw our legislative districts so they are equitable, fair, and empowering. We want maps that encourage voting, that encourage competitive races, and foster the empowerment of the voices that have been stifled. To our legislators we say listen to your own bipartisan interim study committee and do what is right, moral, and just and create fair and equal access to representation.