Black church leaders urge congregations to vote

Najiyyah Aleem, 65 of Wilson, gets off the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America ÒGotta VoteÓ Bus as it arrives at a polling precinct for the first day of early voting on October 18, 2012 in Wilson, North Carolina. The DNC/OFA Bus is on a month long tour spending through the end of the week in North Carolina. Today is the first day to vote for the election in North Carolina. Early voting is offered at select location from now through November 3. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Najiyyah Aleem, 65 of Wilson, gets off the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America ÒGotta VoteÓ Bus as it arrives at a polling precinct for the first day of early voting on October 18, 2012 in Wilson, North Carolina. The DNC/OFA Bus is on a month long tour spending through the end of the week in North Carolina. Today is the first day to vote for the election in North Carolina. Early voting is offered at select location from now through November 3. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

There’s just one day to go before the presidential election, and on Sunday African-American church leaders fired up their congregations to exercise their right to vote.

Rev. Samuel Mosteller, assistant pastor of Atlanta’s Good Shepherd Community Church, told theGrio, though he didn’t deliver the morning sermon, he made a special announcement urging his parishioners to cast their ballots. “I want 100 percent of my congregation to vote.”

He said however, his message is non-partisan. “Individually, I’ll vote for Obama but I don’t encourage or advocate a specific candidate. It’s part and parcel of the separation of church and state.”

This drive to encourage churchgoers to go to the polls comes amid growing unease over tough new voting laws and other legislation, which activists say are just tactics to disenfranchise the electorate, particularly minority voters. Indeed, in many cases pastors are stepping up their efforts because this is a very close election.

Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta has gained some recent notoriety for being the hometown church of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. Despite Cain’s connection, Antioch is known for its liberal activism.

Sunday was a robust morning service. Coincidentally, it included a special celebration paying homage to members who have given 30 or more years of continuous service.

Rev. Hill delivered the sermon. His message focused on holding onto faith, with occasional references to the struggle for equal rights and political activism.

“Just over 50 years ago our pioneers couldn’t cast a vote,” said Hill. “It’s what our pioneers endured,” that has given African-Americans the right to sit at the front of a bus, he added.

The charismatic senior pastor Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander closed Antioch’s 11am service. “You better vote Tuesday,” he told his parishioners. “I have got a feeling that everything is going to be alright, but you better vote.”

President of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber, was a guest preacher at Dr. John D. Fuller’s Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Barber has in the past said he is on a mission to mobilize the African-American community and other minority groups to vote.

In a fiery sermon, Barber said it is imperative that whoever becomes president must address issues which disproportionately affect the poor, minorities and low-income families.“There is no other sin more denounced by our Holy Scriptures for political leaders that hold power than social injustice and refusing to make the playing field fair for all,” said Barber.

“God’s way — says that at the heart of any church, community, or desire to hold and use power;  at the heart of any  national agenda, state agenda — the poor, broken-hearted, blind, bruised, captive and those made to feel unaccepted should be at the center of our attention and concern,” he added.

“The question constantly before this nation that we must remember, especially in this season of national elections, is what kind of nation will we be?  How will the heart of the nation function?  What will be the guiding principles at the heart of how we make public policy decisions that affect the lives of all people?  These questions are not just at the heart of our democracy but according to the scriptures have always been at the heart of our faith.”

Barber also challenged the congregation to ask the presidential candidates where they stand on issues such as educational inequality, access to healthcare for all and disparities in the criminal justice system.

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti