Empower your congregants to get to the polls FOR the marriage protection amendment
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
As North Carolina’s historic Marriage Protection Amendment campaign enters its final days, leaders of the effort to protect marriage as one man/one woman in the state Constitution say churches can make the difference in the outcome of the May 8 referendum, but they can’t wait until that day to do so. The time to act is now, to inform and empower congregants and get them to the polls during early voting.
That’s why Vote FOR Marriage NC has put together an easy-to-follow kit for pastors across the state to involve and energize their congregations with a special Marriage Sunday push set for April 29.
“We know a lot of churches support this effort to protect marriage, but the challenge is to make sure they are active and working to increase awareness and get out the vote, which is what we are hoping the Marriage Sunday event will do,” said Daniel Henson, one of two grassroots directors for Vote FOR Marriage NC. “It not only puts a specific date there, but the packet includes a game plan of how to lead up to that day.”
The 11-page Marriage Sunday kit breaks the overall goal of increased awareness of the Marriage Protection Amendment into five easily manageable steps. Very simply, pastors are asked to register on the Vote FOR Marriage NC Grassroots Dashboard, preach a marriage related sermon, showcase a 7-minute video, host a phone bank and encourage and secure early voting. The tools they need to accomplish these tasks are included in the kit.
“We’ve put all of this together in an event type plan so that they can visualize it, implement it and really buy in to doing this specific set of things,” Henson said. “Getting them on board is so important to the campaign.”
He said even the smallest of churches can have an incredible impact on the outcome of the election, especially since voter turnout percentages in the primaries are typically much lower than in general elections. He also said pastors who may support the amendment personally but have held back on addressing the issue from the pulpit because of fear of fallout or doubts about the legality of their church getting involved in a political issue should take heart.
“People are looking for strong leadership on this issue, and what we’re seeing is that church leaders that are rallying around this, their congregations are rallying around them,” he said, adding that there is no legal risk of a church losing its tax-exempt status simply for taking a position in a referendum.
On the contrary, the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, pointed out that if the Body of Christ is to be the salt and light referred to in the Bible, it is imperative that the church be involved in politics, which is quite simply, “the affairs of the people.” “Jesus, our Lord,” says Creech, “was right in the very middle of ‘the affairs of the people’ and that’s exactly where God’s people need to be as well.”
Henson also stressed the danger of church leaders’ assuming the referendum will pass without further effort simply because it seems to be strongly supported in their local community.
“We need pastors throughout the state, even in counties where it seems the referendum is strong, to get everyone out to vote so that the percentages are as high as possible,” he explained, adding that North Carolina is essentially a “test case” for the marriage issue.
“The first of several statewide referenda on marriage being held this spring, North Carolina’s vote will set the tone, so what we are doing could wield influence well beyond the Tar Heel state and affect the future of the nation in this area,” Dr. Creech agreed. “We can’t stress enough how important it is for churches to follow these steps to empower their people to make a huge difference in the fight for marriage – not just in North Carolina but also for around the country.”
When church leaders register for marriage Sunday on the Vote FOR Marriage NC web site at www.voteformarriagenc.com/Dashboard, they can enter their information and keep abreast of all grassroots-related activities in their geographic area. As they plan for Goal 2, the sermon, they will be able to access nearly a dozen sample messages and excerpts on marriage from leading theologians and pastors.
Goal 3, the church video, is as easy as clicking on the video link and playing it as a sermon introduction on April 29 and/or showing it to a Wednesday night study group. The video opens with a word from the Rev. Mark Harris, pastor of First Baptist Church, Charlotte and president of the N.C. Baptist Convention, and features various marriage coalition leaders giving a concise explanation of the amendment, its exact language and why it is needed.
“This video answers so many questions so well and suciently. We need to get it before as many voters as possible and as soon as possible,” said Dr. Creech.
For Goal 4, church leaders can choose between setting up an online phone bank or one that is on-site. Finally, the kit materials for Goal 5, Early Voting, walk leaders through the process of identifying early voting sites and planning how best to get as many congregants as possible out to vote by Monday, April 30. Some churches in a half dozen areas may even opt to load the church bus and head to the polls after service on Marriage Sunday, as locations in Durham, Guilford, Hoke, Lenior, Union and Wake counties will be open on April 29. (Coordinators should check with their local Board of Elections for exact times and locations.)
Additionally, the Marriage Sunday kit shows participants how to use free icons to spread the pro-marriage message on Facebook and Twitter.
“This kit lays everything out for church leaders, including a calendar and agenda so that there is no doubt what needs to be done when and the resources to do it all are right there, a click away,” said Dr. Creech. “We urge churches across the state to take advantage of this to make Marriage Sunday April 29th a reality in their church community, so there will be no regrets on May 9.”
The Marriage Sunday Kit is being made available via the www.voteFORmarriagenc.com Web site.