From the Minister’s Desk — March 2021

If it’s March you know that spring will be here by the end of the month, though this may be a winter that grandchildren will hear about in fifty years. The impeachment trial is over, and anyone with a half open mind (that includes Senators) will have to agree that the former guy was guilty. Texas has had a wake-up call. Perhaps government regulation isn’t so bad after all. Perhaps a little of what some people call socialism should be considered. The federal government should and did come to the rescue, but who should pay the bill?

This could be the year that capital punishment in the U.S. becomes a thing of the past. In the past 60 years, the federal government has executed 17 people, 13 of those in the last half year of the recently departed administration. The death penalty is in decline in the states: 23 states and D.C. no longer have capital punishment; 12 other states haven’t executed anyone in the last 10 years. It serves no useful purpose, and it’s racially discriminatory. Let’s put it to an end. (My first experience in civil rights law, in 1965, was doing research for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund on the use of capital punishment in rape cases in three southern states.)

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted more than 55 years ago. You would think that in that much time Blacks in the U.S. could have been permitted to become fully enfranchised, and discrimination in voting could by now be found only in history books. But look at what they’re trying to do in Georgia: Restrict early voting on weekends to one Saturday before the election (thus eliminating Sunday early voting altogether – a popular time for Black voters), add a voter-ID requirement for mail-in ballots, give voters less time to request mail-in ballots and election officials less time to send them out, throw out ballots that are cast in the wrong precinct, restrict the use of mail-in ballot drop boxes. And let’s not forget legislative and judicial districts right here in Pennsylvania. (My 33-year career as a civil rights lawyer was focused primarily on voting rights.) Reinstating full voting rights to all citizens should be a priority in the new administration. Democracy depends on it.

Love, Dave

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