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Ga. voting measure spurs new lawsuit as church leader hints at boycotts of Coke, Delta

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Published: Mar. 30, 2021 at 10:37 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Civil and voting rights advocates filed a new lawsuit accusing Georgia Republicans of targeting Black voters with election restrictions, while Black church leader singled out two big Georgia companies for doing nothing to block the legislation.

Meanwhile, a leader in a predominantly Black church targeted Georgia-based Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola for not doing enough

The controversy stems from Gov. Brian Kemp signing Senate Bill 202 into law last Friday.

Black Voters Matter, the New Georgia Project and Rise Inc. filed the first lawsuit over the new law.

Among other restrictions, it puts new voter identification requirements on absentee ballots and limits drop boxes to indoor locations during business hours.

On Monday, people in Albany came together to protest.

“We filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of Georgia for these laws,” said Kiana Jackson of Black Voters Matter.

Gov. Brian Kemp says the voter bill is about election security, not restricting voting rights.

Some groups are calling for major sports to boycott events in the Peach State, including the Masters, which is the property of Augusta National, not the PGA.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is speaking about the contentious language in the bill.

“Unfortunately, the outside edges of both parties have controlled the messaging. we have folks on the far right that are trying to claim this as some sort of calculated response to the great hoax that played over 10 weeks-- and you’ve got folks on the left that are claiming this to be some great overreach of voter suppression,” Duncan said.

President Joseph Biden says the bill is an atrocity, and he says the Justice Department is taking a closer look at the legislation.

Another opponent of the measure is Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, who told News 12 in an exclusive interview:

“I’m doing everything I can to make sure that their voices aren’t diminishing or compromised by those in the state Legislature that are making voting rights now harder than easier,” he said.

The measure also prompted a letter by Georgia African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Reginald Jackson to each of its over 90,000 parishioners in 534 churches across the state.

In a statement, Jackson said: “Governor Kemp and the other racists behind this legislation think we are still living in a different time. They don’t get it. They are out of touch. They do not understand that Georgia and our country have changed. And most of all, now, they are on record as being on the wrong side of history. “

Here’s his letter to parishioners:

It is my prayer that each of you are well and that you have a blessed and fulfilling Holy Week.

I am writing today in regard to Georgia Bill SB 202 which was passed by the Georgia Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25th.

SB 202 targets Black and Brown people and will now make it much harder for each of us to vote.

The new law disintegrates the electoral procedure and process that was once developed together, by both Democrats and Republicans. It changes a host of laws that will affect early voting, ballot drop boxes, and absentee voting and it facilitates the ability for Republicans to overturn the will of the people and can change the outcome of an election. More simply put, this new law not only seeks to suppress the votes of Black and Brown people, but it is also racist and seeks to return us to the days of Jim Crow.

Each of us knows deep in our hearts the truth of what is going on because we know our history. White extremists have once again looked to target and marginalize our community. This time, it is for only one reason – Donald Trump lost the 2020 election and did not receive the majority of votes in our state. This new law was based on a lie fabricated by Donald Trump that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged. Since Republicans were unable to win the election on fair grounds, they are once again looking to change the laws to suit their own purpose, regardless of the facts, the law, or even the moral implications.

What is even more disturbing is that some in the corporate community in Georgia and around the nation have remained silent or even embraced. For example, The Coca-Cola Company has watched silently and done nothing to fight as this bill moved forward to become law. And recently, Delta Airlines wrote an “in house” memo in which they actually praised the law. Silence, inaction, or blind support represents complicity. They are like Paul in the Book of Acts, “I stood there, standing by and consenting.” (Acts 22:20)

This mindset is totally unacceptable. Faith leaders will seek a virtual meeting this week with corporate leaders across the country, as the legislation passed in Georgia is being pushed in more than 40 states. In this meeting, we will explain the consequences of this legislation, why it negatively affects Black and Brown voters, and why corporate leaders should oppose it. If we cannot persuade them or if they refuse to oppose this legislation then we will organize and implement a boycott of their companies. It makes no sense for us to pay our dollars to buy their products and add to their corporate coffers when they refuse to stand with us and support our right to vote without measures to make it more difficult to exercise that right. We do not want to boycott any of these companies, but neither do we or will we “stand by and consent” to racist legislation which seeks to make it more difficult and suppress the right of our people to vote.

What brings us all together is not only our love of God, but the responsibility each of us holds to promote God’s kingdom on earth, to build a fairer and more just world. We have been a powerful community in Georgia regarding equity and access to voting and today I am writing each of our congregants personally to clearly communicate that the fight for equal rights continues. It is our collective mission to peacefully and vigorously fight this new law.

As voters, not to a political party, but to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our values, I know each of you have been watching recent events very closely. Today, I ask each of our congregants, families, and communities to support us if we have to boycott these companies. It will cause inconvenience and sacrifice, but our democracy and rights are on the line. We cannot allow a lie to be rewarded and turn back time to Jim Crow. Again, The Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church is called to lead and be the conscience of the nation. I am sure we are ready to meet this hour.

Let us remain faithful and hopeful and renew in our minds and on our lips the words of the theme song of the Civil Rights Movement, “We shall overcome. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome someday.”

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