A Memphis pastor joined other Christian leaders from across the nation on Thursday to call for a reform of filibuster tactics that could prevent an upcoming voting rights bill aimed at voter suppression legislation.
Rev. J. Lawrence Turner, pastor at the Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church in Memphis, joined Bishop William J. Barber II and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, at a press conference in union with other pastors to voice their support for the voting rights bill, House Resolution 1. Known as the “For the People Act,” the bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
The legislation would make it significantly easier to vote, limit gerrymandering of congressional districts, require third-party groups to reveal secret donors and reform an election watchdog, among other changes. It passed the U.S. House 220-210 and was created in response to Republican lawmakers advancing legislation that restricts voting rights.
Opponents of the bill, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue that the voter restrictions are necessary to avoid voter fraud, but Barber called the filibuster an injustice. Opponents are either an “an advocate or an enabler of transgressions against civil rights.”
The filibuster has been used historically to block or stall civil rights issues, such as anti-lynching and women’s voting rights, said Barber. Because of this, Barber and members of the Poor People’s Campaign are calling for the removal of Congress’ ability to filibuster.
“The filibuster leaves undone the justice that is so needed in this nation. It is time to end it,” said Barber.
Turner,said the filibuster was a “mistake” that has been used intentionally to hijack democracy and to nullify the will of the American people.
Members of the Poor People’s Campaign hope that an end to the filibuster will allow Democrats to pass legislation aimed at improving living conditions for 140 million poor and low-income people living in the U.S., or 43% of the population.
Group members also support Washington, D.C.’s efforts to become a state, which could potentially add a whole new demographic of Democratic voters from the territory’s large Black population.
Upcoming elections nationwide are at stake here, said Barber, and he believes this to be why Republican lawmakers are in a hurry to pass voter-suppression laws.
“We’ve known for years that the filibuster was used for ugly practices,” said Barber.