By Kirk Petersen
The Church is urging Episcopalians to take an active role in two periodic rites of citizenship: voting, and the 2020 census.
“It is a Christian obligation to vote, and more than that, it is the church’s responsibility to help get souls to the polls,” said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. As for the census, he said “it’s important for how our government allocates resources that actually help people in need.”
The Church has online resources to help local parishes support their members in voting and taking part in the census.
- Vote Faithfully is a six-page tool kit detailing efforts churches can take to help their friends and neighbors participate in voting. While non-profit organizations are not permitted to endorse particular candidates, “IRS guidelines permit houses of worship to involve their members in the political process through education, voter registration, and candidate participation in town halls.”
- The U.S. Census occurs only once every 10 years, and the information collected shapes government spending and Congressional districts for a decade. Latino groups and their supporters last year opposed a plan to add a question to the census about whether or not a respondent is a U.S. citizen. The proposal, which ultimately was dropped, might have deterred some Latinos from participating because of their immigration status. The Church has a census toolkit called “Shape Your Future: Engage the U.S. Census,” which states “Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households, or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies.
The Church is an official partner of the 2020 Census, and the nationwide network of individual churches can help improve participation. “Research shows that a person is more likely to respond to the census if they hear about it from someone they trust, so individuals can help to promote filling out the census, paying particular attention to historically undercounted populations,” the toolkit says.
In a video, Curry said: “Pay attention to those who may be overlooked by the census, and assist them. … People with disabilities, children, members of the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. All should be counted.”