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November Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N.| California | Minnesota | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin

United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y.

Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training: The Lutheran World Federation in collaboration with Church of Sweden, Finn Church Aid, Mission 21, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance is holding an advocacy training on women’s human rights (26 October – 13 November 2020). The training is usually held annually in person, and this year, due to COVID-19 it is being held virtually.

Topics covered include introduction to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), tools and opportunities for engaging in preparing for parallel (also known as “shadow”) reports to CEDAW, the intersection between human rights, faith and gender, Gender-Based Violence prevention and responses, the role of men and boys in gender justice advocacy among others. LOWC is involved in the planning and facilitation of some sessions during the training. A resource for faith-based organizations on affirming women’s human rights can be found here.

General Assembly’s Third Committee Has Dialogues with Human Rights Mandate Holders: As it has done for some years, the General Assembly’s Third Committee has been having dialogues in recent weeks with various persons holding human rights mandates from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. While LOWC has been monitoring quite a few of these discussions on topics such as racism and racial discrimination, advancement of women, rights of indigenous peoples, and internally displaced persons, it took special note of the discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor S. Michael Lynk.  His report this year reviewed the situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza and focused on accountability related issues. Lynk also held a separate virtual discussion with the UN NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, of which LOWC is a member, as he has in previous years on this occasion.


Regina Q. Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California

Getting ready for the election: The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in California (LOPP-CA) has been working diligently to prepare for the upcoming election. The staff did work around building patience and an understanding of the process. In the weekly Advocacy in Quarantine meetings, LOPP-CA worked with constituents to talk through the timeliness of the election while holding space for further learning on the state’s Proposition.

Prop 16 Text Banking: LOPP-CA went forward this month in continuing to text bank with the Prop 16 coalition. The office has been reaching out to California voters through a texting platform called Thru Text in hopes of overturning the state-wide ban of affirmative action, something that has been in effect since 1996. There has been a committed group of parishioners and advocates meeting every Monday to push this outreach, and so far the office has reached more than 600,000 voters in the state.

Partnering with California Food and Farming Network: Continuing the office’s commitment to advocate for food and farming, LOPP-CA has begun working closely with the California Food and Farming Network (CFFN), a coalition of around 40 advocacy organizations such as food banks, legislative advocacy, farming service organizations, and partners from across both the food and farming sectors. The Network has begun its strategic process for the year 2021, centering racial justice and equity in their approach. LOPP-CA has joined CFFN for this visioning process, and has given financial contributions toward centering racial justice through committing funds to CFFN’s community Engagement process. Specifically, CFFN will be reaching out into communities of color, finding leaders and advocates within food sectors, and providing compensation for their expertise. This listening campaign will take the expertise learned and structure CFFN 2021 priorities.


Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy- Minnesota

State Legislative Elections: Although the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lost some seats in the House, it retains control of the chamber. In the Senate, some flipped districts occurred, but the balance remains the same. Unfortunately, at least one of the Republicans that was ousted was one who was helpful to our housing agenda. All the main leaders from both parties and both chambers retain their positions.

Minnesota U.S. Elections: Rep. Colin Peterson was ousted from Minnesota’s 7th congressional district seat and replaced by former State Senator/Senate President Michelle Fischbach, who also served briefly as Lt. Governor when Tina Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Representative Peterson served as the long-term chair of the Agriculture Committee, a committee Fischbach hopes to serve on as it also addresses nutrition issues.

Update on Special Session #5: A carefully negotiated $1.36 billion bill including bonding, supplemental appropriations, and “tax  relief” for farmers and small businesses was finally passed when House Minority Leader Daudt let his caucus vote their conscience. Freed by Daudt, many House Republicans joined the bipartisan bill. Thanks for your hard work on the housing pieces!

Included in the bill were

  • $100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds
  • $16 million in General Obligation Bonds for Public Housing
  • A large amount for transportation including roads and bridges, some public transportation, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Bonds for public facility projects, public safety, the University of Minnesota, and other various public works, including municipal water infrastructure & solar projects
  • $31 million in a supplemental appropriation (added to last year’s biennial budget)


Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio

Hunger For Justice Conference: On November 9th the Hunger Network sponsored the Hunger for Justice Conference featuring theological reflection on the election and analysis of what is to come so that faith leaders across the state can identify opportunities for successful advocacy!

Visit for links to our plenary panel, theological reflection and musical reflection of what the election means to our communities


Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa)

Shaping Hunger Policy in PA: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the quarterly meeting of the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Advisory Committee, where the state Department of Agriculture and charitable feeding organizations assessed the current response to emergency nutrition needs during COVID-19, mapped likely needs and set goals for meeting those needs in the upcoming state budget.

LAMPa Participates in Virtual Human Trafficking Rally: LAMPa participated in a Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group sponsored Advocacy Day lifting legislation that provides definitions and the offense of trafficking individuals; repealing provisions relating to patronizing a victim of sexual servitude; promoting prostitution and living off sexually exploited persons; commercial sexual exploitation; and providing for Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

Workshop presented at We Love: LAMPa Program Director Lynn Fry shared a workshop titled : Take a Stand: Advocacy & Equality in Pennsylvania at the second ELCA NEPA Synod We Love Event – Building Safer & More Welcoming Congregations for LGBTQ+ Youth and Families.

Equipping leaders and vital congregations for discipleship in a democracy: LAMPa continued to disseminate election information to congregations, synods, and leaders regarding election security, poll watching, and voter safety. DePasquale and ELCA Advocacy Director Amy Reumann presented to leaders in the NWPA Synod Bishop’s Convocation.

Responded to Legislative threats to Medicaid: LAMPa worked to successfully stop legislation that threatened Medicaid provisions and funding.

Advocacy and Faith Formation: DePasquale taught a virtual adult faith formation class at Holy Spirit, Emmaus, SEPA Synod.


The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network

Election Successes: WA state passed Referendum 90 for Safe and Healthy Youth, a bill the legislature passed in the 2020 session mandating sex education in our K-12 school system with age-appropriate stages. This referendum was supported by sexual assault and domestic violence advocates, as well as a broad coalition of faith leaders who signed this letter, in contrast to opposition from the “religious right.” FAN was very involved in the campaign to secure the 60% approval. We also secured funding for our Long-Term Care Trust Fund via constitutional amendment – among the first of such funds in the nation.

New Regional Organizers: We are excited to share that our organizing team is expanding! FAN is able to fulfill one of our dreams of having a stronger presence statewide by hiring part-time Regional Organizers in Western, Central, and Eastern Washington as well as two social work interns from the University of Washington. We look forward to building deeper relationships with our Network of Advocating Faith Communities (NAFCs) and local organizations statewide.


The Rev. Cindy  Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW)

ELCAvotes: Wisconsin had a record turnout of voters! Since March, LOPPW placed major emphases on encouraging people to vote, especially absentee, and on countering misinformation. We often worked in coalition with ELCA partners and a statewide voting coalition. October efforts included interviewing a Wisconsin Elections Commission representative for Wednesday Noon Live and creating six Ballot Box FAQs videos, including one with an interview with the ACLU.

Care for God’s Creation: LOPPW’s statewide task force, so far with members from five synods, began planning a Care for God’s creation virtual advocacy day to coincide with an emerging new WI State Budget.

Trainings: LOPPW helped in organizing an advocacy webinar, co-hosted by ECSW WELCA. We also led discussions on voting and advocacy with adults and confirmands in LAS and in SCSW.

COVID-19: Participated in meeting with Lieutenant Governor on health mandates challenged by courts and possibly the legislature. I was then in dialogue with the bishops about drafting a statement, which can be found here. LOPPW also joined an interfaith group to organize an action to address the problem.

New Resource: Read our new resource, “Advocating Locally,” for information about engaging your community!

Criminal Justice: We’ve begun reviving efforts to return 17-year-olds to juvenile courts, led by our Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Kyle Minden.

Anti-Racism: We offered consultation to ECSW’s Global Missions Committee on integrating anti-racism efforts into their work. I invited Regina Banks to give a presentation at one of their meetings.

Immigration and Refugees:  We offered consultation to the SCSW Immigration Task Force and created a video to address decreasing number of refugees in U.S. for the national, “Lift the Torch of Welcome” vigil.


ELCAvotes: Engagement before/during/after election

It is both privilege and responsibility for Lutherans in the United States to approach Election 2020 as faith-informed voters. Aware of needs and priorities in our own lives and connected with our neighbors who are equally beloved children of God, “Lutherans care about government because it is a gift from God intended for the safety and flourishing of human life.”* We are civically engaged, mindful that “too often and in too many ways, this gift has been abused.”*

  • Do you have your plan in place for voting?
  • Can you encourage and inform others through your congregation and/or personal circles?
  • Have you reflected on election challenges – for vote casting and after Election Day – in our unique 2020 context?

With mere days remaining in advance of Election Day 2020, here is a review of material associated with the ELCAvotes initiative.



Rules vary state-by-state, which makes obtaining facts and planning ahead very important when challenges of polling in 2020 tweak familiar voting avenues.

If you’re looking for a place to start, the national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition can direct you to state-specific information from as well as the nonprofit, nonpartisan technology platform This includes:

  • Registration information
  • Vote-by-mail information
  • Deadlines
  • Polling locations



Cherry-pick from archived ELCAvotes social media posts or use new items posted every Wednesday to share important messages in your and/or your congregation’s circles. On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ELCAadvocacy, find messages for sharing including:

  • Identify your polling location
  • Thinking of voting early? Deadlines matter.
  • Want to check if you are registered?
  • What is your state’s early-voting and vote-by-mail options?

Use #ELCAvotes in YOUR posts  to help us all see & share!


  • A brand-new short video from the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, raises “Civic Engagement in 2020” themes. View on YouTube, and pass along from Twitter and Facebook.
  • Though the video is not new, “The Right to Vote” with Bishop Eaton also contains an important message. Find it on and YouTube.



While the ELCA Advocacy blog spotlights varied examples of Lutheran action, several posts carry ELCAvotes themes.

  • Voting dialogue with persons with disabilities (10/16/20)
  • Sifting through misinformation (10/5/20)
  • Churches as polling places (9/17/20)
  • Voting in 2020 takes personal and public planning (8/21/20)
  • Voter suppression damage requires challenge (6/24/20)

Review from where you can also sign up to have ELCA Advocacy blog posts sent directly via email.



Lutherans take time for study, prayer and worship in all things.

Check for local vigils near you. Plans for a national prayer vigil through the Washington Interfaith Staff Community in which ELCA advocacy staff participate will be shared when finalized.



Check out and under the “Civic Engagement” tab for more information, including:

  • Fact & activity sheet on race and voting
  • Money in politics
  • Voter guidelines for people facing homelessness
  • ELCA Civic Engagement Guide with “Get Out the Vote” tip sheet and more.


  • Sacred Season of Voting resources to educate yourself and motivate others to go out and vote are offered by Faithful Democracy, with which the ELCA is in partnership through the Washington Interfaith Staff Community.
  • Help staff your local polling place if you feel safe doing so. Our country is facing a shortage of poll workers because of the pandemic, and Power the Polls can direct you to sign up.
  • Tools for strengthening community resilience during the election cycle and addressing possible election-related violence in communities is available from Faith in Public Life. See “Building a Resilience Network.”



In the unique environment of Election 2020, our faith-informed voices have much to contribute to inform, take action and proclaim that fear will not rule the day – before, during and after Election Day. In a media pool tainted with misinformation, cultivating multiple info sources and “knowing where to go to find accurate information or a different perspective about a topic is extremely helpful,” says a tip in the Misinformation blog post. Churches can play a role as trusted messengers in our communities.

  • Is voter intimidation illegal? Are guns permitted at polling places? Does the First Amendment protect intimidating speech? These are a sample of questions answered by the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. Review the responses in their “Fact Sheet: Protecting Against Voter Intimidation.”
  • Resources for addressing voter intimidation, including state-by-state guidance on explaining the laws barring unauthorized private militia groups near a polling place or voter registration drive, have been compiled by the same source from the page: “Addressing the Rise of Unlawful Private Paramilitaries.”
  • The national, nonpartisan Election Protection coalition runs the hotline 1-866-OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683) in English and additional languages (use link or see graphic). Call it with questions, including if you encounter problems when seeking to cast your ballot. Legal help is provided by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.


With the increase in mail-in ballots and polling place challenges, it is highly unlikely that a winner in the presidential contest will be known on November 4. As our nation awaits results, we can be centered in the blessing:

“Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak, and help the suffering; honor all people; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.” (from “Worship Resources for a National Election”)


* From the ELCA social message “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy.”


October Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N. | Arizona | Colorado | Ohio |Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin

United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y.

UN 75TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION: The high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN was held on September 21st.  The meeting adopted a declaration acknowledging both the UN’s achievements and its disappointments, such as: “Our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism,” “Strengthening international cooperation is in the interest of both nations and peoples.” It also included twelve pledges “to ensure the future we want and the United Nations we need.”

CELEBRATION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF BEIJING WOMEN’S CONFERENCE: The UN General Assembly High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women was held on October 1st. According to UN Women, no country has achieved gender equality. There has been progress since the Beijing Conference held in 1995, but gaps remain, and in some areas these gains are threatened and even reversed. The meeting was therefore being held under the theme “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. It aimed to “demonstrate the political will and leadership that will bring about the transformative change needed to address root causes, structural barriers, discriminatory practices and social norms that underpin discrimination and inequality.” You can watch the meeting on UN Web TV.

LOWC SPEAKS TO LUTHERAN STUDIES PROGRAM COLLOQUIA 2020-2021 AT YALE: In late September, Christine Mangale and Dennis Frado spoke via Zoom with Lutheran students at Yale University as part of the Lutheran Studies Program Colloquia theme “Public Church.” The LOWC presentations focused on the church’s presence at the United Nations (UN) and the history of the ELCA’s work on human rights, including at the UN.


Solveig Muus, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona

GETTING OUT THE VOTE: In the midst of racial inequity, an upcoming election, a pandemic, and a climate gone crazy, we in Arizona thank God for forgiveness and mercy, and for the miraculous ways God works in us and through us.

This month, we’re all hands on deck to get out the vote. Every faith community and advocacy group in Arizona seems to be in step; all are publicizing the importance of voting and helping in any way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Arizona has an excellent track record for successful mail-in ballot counting. Rev. Mark Holman, Bishop’s Associate for Mobility and Leadership, wrote a study resource titled “How Would Jesus Vote?” for congregational use, and a member of LAMA’s policy team created a voter volunteer recruitment packet for congregations.

Like every other state office, LAMA continues to reach out to our 85 Arizona congregations, and are encouraged that several are considering adding an advocacy component to their social ministry teams. Building our network, producing a weekly newsletter, and feeding social media keep us busy.

UPCOMING EVENTS: We are planning LAMA’s first state-wide summit on November 7, which is to be a virtual event featuring Dr. Ryan Cumming of ELCA World Hunger. Together with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center and Bread for the World Southwest, we are planning and promoting a Virtual Town Hall on November 17 featuring Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World.


Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado

BALLOT MEASURES: Coloradans will vote on eleven statewide ballot measures this fall. Lutheran Advocacy is committed to providing Lutherans and all people of faith with comprehensive and detailed analysis of each measure from our perspective. Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado’s positions on the eleven measures are available now. View them at Our 2020 Voter Guide with analysis and information will be available on the same site in the first week of October. Ballots will be mailed to all Colorado voters on October 9th.

THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE: The Rocky Mountain Synod met virtually for its annual fall Theological Conference from September 21-24. Lutheran Advocacy was present alongside hundreds of rostered ministers, lay professionals and other leaders to learn from expert presenters, engage in Bible study, and have in-depth discussions of anti-racism and building up God’s beloved community of liberation with all present.


Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio

HUNGER FOR JUSTICE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: As voting begins in Ohio this month, we are all diligently working to discern the best candidates for all positions – including the Ohio Statehouse, State Supreme Court, and community leaders for school board and Township Trustees. Regardless of who wins at the local, state, or national level, our work remains the same – proclaiming God’s desire that all may be fed and have justice and peace in our communities.

Our two-hour conference will be held on zoom and feature theological reflection to help frame the election results and policy landscape moving forward. We encourage clergy, congregational leaders, judicatory staff, and people curious about hunger and poverty to attend. Register at

OHIO COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ANTI-RACISM SUNDAY: HNO is a proud partner with the Council and their efforts to educate and engage congregations throughout the state on issues of white privilege and racism. You can watch the Livestream online here

CROP WALK KICK-OFF: HNO Director Nick Bates will be the featured speaker at the Columbus CROP Walk virtual kick-off on October 11th at noon to discuss our call to advocacy and justice around hunger issues.

PROBLEMS WITH VOTING: HNO is partnering with the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition. You can check your voter registration and find your absentee ballot at You can report a problem or concern to 1-866-OUR-VOTE or view their website,


Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa)

EQUIPPING LEADERS AND VITAL CONGREGATIONS FOR DISCIPLESHIP IN A DEMOCRACY: LAMPa staff and volunteers contacted Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to assess their preparedness for the Nov. 3 election and shared the results with synod leaders to target congregations so that they could support safe access to polls in areas of need. Read more.

POLICY COUNCIL RETREAT: The Rev. Amy Reumann, ELCA Advocacy Director, joined virtually to talk about advocacy as discipleship. She invited the council to imagine how congregational leaders could engage in LAMPa’s ministry as faith formation through the practice of testimony.

HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW: Larry D. Herrold, Jr. joined LAMPa as our ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow. A member of Zion, Sunbury (Upper Susquehanna Synod), and active in hunger ministry there, he is discerning a call to ministry. Learn more about Larry.

ADVOCACY ON RENT RELIEF AND SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS: LAMPa advocates urged state lawmakers to improve and extend the application deadline for the CARES Rent Relief Program and to end surprise medical billing.

UNITED LUTHERAN SEMINARY CONVOCATION: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale shared whys and ways of connecting with policymakers as a form of loving our neighbor.

GWOH: Congregations around Pennsylvania added their voices to God’s work. Our hands. Sunday by writing letters to lawmakers addressing issues to which they have been called in service of neighbor.

OTHER WORK: Opposed legislation rolling back clean water protections; Supported use of CARES funding to stop utility shutoffs; Garnered signatures in support of waivers for school nutrition programs; Increased SNAP benefits


The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network

FAN’s Annual Dinner will be held virtually this year on November 15. We hope this change will allow more people from across the state to join in, expanding the traditions of our Renton and Spokane dinners! Our theme is “Rise Up Together,” which speaks to our current and future work in confronting the challenges of multiple pandemics – COVID-19, systemic racism, economic uncertainty, and environmental devastation. Learn more at

NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZERS: FAN is building our statewide outreach by creating a staff team of Regional Organizers! In Central Wash., we welcome Zahra Roach (pictured here) who is a Pasco City Councilmember and who worked on our Census Equity Team earlier this year. In Western Wash., we welcome Jaspreet Singh who has experience working with the legislative session in Olympia and is representing FAN at the Career and Technical Colleges coalition. More to come as we add University of Washington social work interns and a Spokane area organizer!

WORKING FAMILIES TAX CREDIT: FAN is part of several state policy coalitions – one is the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) coalition. Several years ago, our legislature passed this law to provide tax credits to low-income working families, but it has never been funded. Now more than ever in this pandemic where so many households are struggling, funding an emergency cash assistance program like this with an annual credit is critical. Another important piece to make this program more equitable is to statutorily include Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) filers so that ALL workers in our state receive this benefit. Learn more at or


The Rev. Cindy  Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW)

WELCOME TO LOPPW HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW KYLE MINDEN:  Kyle is with us full-time for one year thanks to a generous grant from ELCA World Hunger.  He graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. in Religion and Business Administration and a Minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Kyle is passionate about solving the systemic inequities and injustices that stem from public policy at the local, state, and federal level.

VOTING: Kyle has developed two voting resources, the Comprehensive can be found at 2020 LOPPW Voting Guide, while the one-page summary can be found here: 2020 LOPPW Voting Overview

HUNGER: We made known information about people eligible for a stimulus check but who have not filed.  Kyle used the center to create this resource:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Stimulus-Payment-Outreach-Resource-1-1%20(12).pdf

As part of our project to highlight at least one hunger ministry in each synod for others to learn from, we interviewed Bill Binroth, Director of Let’s Eat Community Meals of Chassell, MI in the NGLS.

CARE FOR CREATION: Our LOPPW statewide climate task force continues to meet.  We sent this press release as a letter to the WI Legislature:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Revised-Climate-press-release-Team-Bishops.pdf

WEDNESDAY NOON LIVE & IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION: The video of Attorney Mary Campbell, Ms. Marisol Fuentes de Dubon, and Dr. Stephanie Mitchell mentioned last month was published in September:

“LIFTING OUR VOICES DURING THE PANDEMIC”: This Zoom webinar, co-sponsored by East Central Synod Women of the ELCA and LOPPW, will be held on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 from 6:30-7:30 PM. Register here:


Voting in 2020 takes personal and public planning

by Tessa Comnick, Hunger Advocacy Fellow

Like many people, I have spent the last several months living out of my house. While that may not seem like a significant statement—I mean, houses are where we live—living out of my house has taken on new meaning. It’s now where I socialize (virtually), where I work, where I sleep, where I eat… and soon it will be where I vote in the 2020 election.

I have actually voted by mail for the past several years, coming from a state with no-excuse absentee ballots (that means you don’t need a reason why you cannot physically be present at a polling place to use a mail-in ballot). When I decided to work at my local polling place one year, this habit ended up being very fortuitous. I voted from the comfort of my own home so that I wouldn’t have to think about it during my long (but rewarding) fifteen-hour-day as a volunteer. As that day dragged on, I even thought: “Why doesn’t everyone vote by mail?”

But there are reasons everyone doesn’t vote by mail. It’s different for me than it is for others. I have no disabilities that keep me from being able to send in a paper ballot, requiring a voting machine to confidently and privately vote. I have a home address, one that didn’t change even when I was at school or completing fellowships. I don’t come from a socially marginalized and/or oppressed group that has learned not to trust certain systems because they have continually failed me. The question that flew through my head never took into account experiences that weren’t exclusively mine.

We as a country cannot operate in a one-size-fits-all paradigm, especially with something as crucial as our right to vote. We need to prepare ourselves for a 2020 election that enfranchises everyone’s vote. Mail in voting should be expanded during the current global pandemic crisis, but it should not be the only option.

  • SUPPORT MAIL-IN ACCESS – Currently there are 16 states that still require specific reasons or excuses to request an absentee ballot. A nation-wide no-excuse absentee ballot system could help keep lines down, keep the system from getting overwhelmed, and allow high-risk individuals to continue saying home, all while still providing the opportunity for in-person voting for those who need it.
  • LIMIT MAILED BALLOT REJECTIONS – Read and share local voting by mail information so that mistakes, such as a missing signature, do not result in ballot rejections. This information should be available in multiple languages and in multiple forms, so as not to exclude anyone without access to internet.
  • GET SPACES READY – Polling places should be available for those who will not vote otherwise. Some voters with disabilities, voters with language access needs and American Indian and Alaska Native voters among others need safe, in-person options for fair access. Buildings that are currently sitting closed, like churches, could be used as polling places. Guidelines to minimize the risk of transmitting COVID-19 at the polls can be followed, such as those jointly issued by The Brennan Center and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
  • IS BEING A POLLING WORKER FOR YOU?Over half of U.S. poll workers were 61 years of age or older in the 2018 general election. In 2020 we could face a shortage. Youth and young adults should consider working on election day (hello to making it a National Holiday!) to help keep those at higher risk safe. When I did it, the day was long, but I heard an endless supply of “thank yous” showing appreciation for an open, accessible system from which to vote. I did not know what faith traditions voters followed, if any, but love for our community connected us in a way that was intrinsically divine. For me, I feel God’s presence strongest when I am among my community, expressing my love for every single member. God’s love is for us all, indiscriminately.

For you and your neighbor, what’s your plan? Learn what qualifies for an absentee ballot in your state. Instructions on how to register and vote-by-mail need to be effectively planned and widely distributed months before an election, to ensure equal access to those who may choose to mail-in their vote. Learn about becoming a poll worker if that sounds right for you. And contact your county Board of Elections to find out how to designate a place you’re connected with as a polling site.

And if you want to encourage election considerations in the next COVID-19 stimulus legislation, write to your lawmakers using the Action Alert “Take Action on the Next Coronavirus Supplemental Bill” at And learn more about the ELCAvotes initiative at

Every vote counts, and so does every decision on how to vote.



Golden Rule can have national impact

What do you expect to hear in the forthcoming 365 days as we approach the 2020 national election? Do you clench up a bit – anticipating rancor in the airwaves, on screens… not even excluding at coffee shops, dinner tables and perhaps even Fellowship Halls?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was among those who helped shape “Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics” out of concern about the polarization in our country by emphasizing the applicability of Christian ethical principles to our political discussions. “We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus,” reads a Statement of Support joined by the ELCA and several other Christian denominations and organizations. It continues:

“In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this ‘Golden Rule’ principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country.’”

“When our tone is automatically uncivil and it’s automatically accusatory, how can we ever hope that we’re actually going to communicate with somebody else if we’ve already belittled and accused them?” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a Religion News Service article (10/31/19) highlighting that civility is not mutually exclusive to speaking out against injustice.

Bishop Eaton drew present applicability in the article from Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

On November 3, 2019 and in the year ahead, congregations and individuals are invited to pray for the healing of the divisions in our country and promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities in 2020. Resources affiliated with the Golden Rule 2020 movement include a #ReviveCivility pledge from the National Institute for Civil Discourse plus games and activities such as “Media Literacy for High School Students” and an one-on-one discussion guide.

Christians have differing theological and political views. The Golden Rule can give us guidance when we need to come together to solve our common problems.


Registering: Love in action

By Tessa Comnick, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow

I was the youngest person by maybe 30 years sitting in a dilapidated American Legion hall at 5 a.m. preparing to start a 15-hour shift at my local polling station. The gentleman next to me warned that we’d probably have some intermittent slow periods. “We’re expecting we’ll get more people than last year, though,” he told me with some pride.

“More people” turned out to be over double the voters on Nov. 6, 2018 than in the previous year. In Lorain County, Ohio, 26.80%* of those eligible voted in November 2017—in November 2018, we hit 54.15%.** This is a trend I am hopeful we will continue to see.

The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP), part of the ELCA Advocacy network, has been active in encouraging congregations through its Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Faithful Citizen Civic Engagement Program. Regional trainings teach effective nonpartisan civic engagement in order to prepare members and places of worship to raise their voices and promote 100% voting participation in their communities. And I have reason to hope for a continued rising voting trend— twice as many people turned out for VICPP’s first GOTV event than registered.

I am a firm believer that everyone eligible should vote in this country, but why should faith communities be involved? For me, our faith equals love. In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus commands us to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. “There is no commandment greater than these,” Jesus teaches. To love God means to love all, every one of us.

The people we vote for are people elected to represent us all: the rich, the poor, the famous, the stranger, the healthy, the sick, the believer, the non-believer—all of us. Our input can help promote in our government our values of love, care, and protection. No matter what beliefs (or lack thereof) individuals in this country follow, we all deserve to be protected, we all deserve to be happy, and we all deserve to be healthy, just as we would want for ourselves.

Don’t miss your state’s deadline – register to vote. Then, whether by mail or at your own local polling location, get out the vote!

*Lorain County Board of Elections, “2017 General Election Information,”, accessed September 26, 2019,

**Lorain County Board of Elections, “2018 General Election Information,”, accessed September 26, 2019,


The continued struggle for voting rights

Our guest blogger, the Rev. Kwame Pitts, helped draft and present the ELCA Social Policy Resolution “Voting Rights to All Citizens” adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 2013. She shares her poetically presented thoughts in 2018 here.


By guest blogger the Rev. Kwame Pitts, Campus Pastor, Augustana Lutheran Church of Hyde Park in Chicago (bio)

Simply because they refuse to assimilate
Kowtow to the dominate culture
To the poisonous American nationalism.
We are still having this conversation
They tried to wipe our rights.
They tried to cripple the peoples of Georgia
The tired, the poor, the abused, the violated.
We are still standing.
So please,
Don’t tell me to conform
To stick to the sickly sweet,
Feel good Gospel
That does not address the suffering
That chooses to ignore the cries for justice
That co-signs off on the slavery and the destruction
Of God’s People,
Of Black and Brown Bodies
Of Indigenous and Ancient Bodies
Of those who Love Authentically,
Even if that makes folks uncomfortable
OF those who rejoice the Creator,
In so many beautiful and original ways…
Will not be the religious tradition that I will ever follow.
What side are YOU on?
Will you speak prophetically,
And defend
The right

Biographical submission: The Rev. Kwame Pitts understands her role in the scheme of things as a weaving of both academics, theology and the practical. Currently she serves as Associate Pastor for Body and Soul UChicago Campus Ministry at Augustana Lutheran Church, Hyde Park. Campus Ministry, under her tutelage, is being redefined as a resource for public theology and an example of public Church. Pr. Pitts holds a M.Div. degree from LSTC, is working on her final STM thesis on syncretism and oppression and has been accepted to an Ecumenical D.Min. program concurrently. In 2013 she wrote and presented to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly the Social Policy Resolution regarding Voting Rights and subsequently partnered with ELCA Young Adults and Racial Justice Ministries to form #ELCAVotes. Currently she serves on both boards of SOUL (Southsiders Organized for Unity and Leadership) and Emmanus Road, another faith rooted organization located in NYC. Pr. Pitts has no apologizes for her voice and where she places herself in faith rooted organizing for all people. She is also known for her poetic voice both academically and theologically, and this is reflected in the blog.