Warnock: Opposition to voting rights bill ‘dismembers’ MLK legacy

Senator Raphael G. Warnock attends the 2022 King Holiday Beloved Community Memorial Service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on January 17, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images) |

The Reverend Raphael Warnock, who was elected the first black U.S. senator from Georgia a year ago, urged his congressional colleagues on Monday not to “dismember” the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by opposing the voting rights legislation backed by Democrats.

Warnock, 52, who continues to lead the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where the Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and King Jr. both served as pastors, made the call during the community’s memorial service well -loved in remembrance of the famous civil rights leader’s life at church Monday.

“Our nation needs our prayers. We are at a critical moment. As a pastor of this church for over 16 years now, I know that at this time of year everyone lines up to offer praises in memory of Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone loves the Dr King. They just don’t always like what he stands for,” Warnock began.

“Everyone is quoting Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend. Perhaps the most quoted speech will be the one he gave in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. ‘I Have a Dream’ 1963, an important speech.

However, Warnock reminded the audience that the “I Have a Dream” speech was not King’s first speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

“The first time he gave a speech at the Lincoln Memorial was in 1957, when Dr. King, in his relevant, powerful and prescient way, spoke of ‘all manner of conniving methods used to keep people from vote,” Warnock mentioned. “Was he talking about then or was he talking about now?” Warnock continued before taking aim at his colleagues.

“I asked the question because I’ve been to that mountain many times, and I know the politicians in particular, God bless their hearts, would want to be seen where Dr King stood,” he said. he declares. “Let the word flow. You cannot remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time. If you could speak his name, you must stand up for the right to vote. You must stand up on behalf of the poor, oppressed and of the excluded.

The Democrat went on to say that those who defend King’s words “must defend health care because he said of all injustices, inequality in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” .

He invoked the words of Joshua 24:15.

“I was a preacher long before I was in the Senate,” he said. “Then I offer you the words of Joshua. ‘Choose today whom you will serve.’”

Democrats have been beating the suffrage drum loudly in recent weeks, including some in the faith community. About 25 progressive religious leaders recently went on a hunger strike in an effort to push Congress to pass suffrage legislation by Martin L. King Jr. Day Monday.

Conservatives argue that bills, like the one passed last year in Georgia, aim to improve the integrity of the voting process amid allegations of voter fraud. Progressives believe such bills limit ballot access for urban and suburban communities.

Legislation proposed since Democrats won the House in 2018 includes the People’s Law, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act. Last week, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that combines the John Lewis Advancing Voting Rights Act and the Free Suffrage Act. That bill is now before the more evenly divided Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris is breaking a 50-50 tie in favor of the Democrats.

Democrats’ ballot bills have met with varying degrees of resistance from Republicans, while an ongoing debate over whether the Senate filibuster should be repealed continues to rage.

Removing the filibuster would give Democrats the chance to pass bills by a simple majority in the Senate rather than compromise with Republicans to reach a 60-vote threshold. Two Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – have said they will not vote to end the filibuster.

“I sometimes sit in the room when some of my colleagues are making arguments against the suffrage bills that we’re trying to pass right now, and listening to their arguments, their arguments sound eerily familiar,” Warnock said Monday.

“And I started to wonder why, and I went back and reviewed the history that I’ve studied all my life, and I realized that a lot of segregationists who opposed the right to vote…a lot of suffrage opponents, they didn’t.. don’t stand up and say we’re against black voting.. They made the state rights arguments .

He argued that “voter suppression” bills had been passed in 19 states and introduced in 49 states.

“Governors and members of Congress are channeling old state rights arguments into fighting suffrage now the same way they did then,” he argues. “So… Choose today who you want to serve. You can’t remember Dr. King and dismember his legacy at the same time.

While Progressives maintain their voting bills are aimed at preventing states from suppressing votes, critics of the legislation say they are attempts to undo voter ID laws passed in 35 states. , to prohibit the updating of electoral lists and to prevent poll watchers from watching the vote count.

Kamala Harris
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a meeting with members of the Democratic Texas State Senate and the Texas House of Representatives in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on 16 June 2021. |

Several other speakers at the King’s ceremony, including Vice President Harris, who joined remotely, spoke about the right to vote and the Free Suffrage Act: John R. Lewis, which seeks to establish national standards for access to the vote.

“A landmark bill, as we all know, sits before the United States Senate: ‘Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act.’ This bill represents the first real opportunity to secure the freedom to vote since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act nearly a decade ago. And the Senate needs to pass this bill now,” Harris said.

“You know, over 55 years ago, men, women and children marched from Selma to Montgomery demanding the ballot. When they arrived at the state capitol in Alabama, Dr. King denounced what he called “normalcy” – the normality, the complacency that deprived people of the freedom to vote.

Harris stressed that the “only normalcy” King would accept is the “normalcy that recognizes the dignity and worth of all of God’s children.”

“Today, we must not be complacent or complicit. We must not give up and we must not give in,” she said. “To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today, we must continue to fight for the freedom to vote, for freedom for all.”

Despite a Democratic-imposed deadline for Martin Luther King Day to vote on the suffrage bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last Thursday that a vote would not have not take place until at least Tuesday. But Democrats don’t appear to have enough votes to pass the legislation as long as the filibuster remains in place.

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