This is a great idea, and could be a great missionary field for deacons — though the story doesn’t mention any Catholic involvement in this exercise.
Amid the rancorous tenor of national politics and concerns about voter intimidation and even Election Day violence, [Rev. Billy] Honor said he sensed there was a bigger role clergy could play than what he calls “line warming.”
The New Georgia Project is one of several groups training clergy to be precinct chaplains this Election Day (Nov. 3) at polling places across the country.
“Essentially, this is about the defense of democracy. This is about how it is that we stand up for the democratic process and say it is a spiritual value for us to protect people who are trying to participate in the decision-making process for their own lives. It’s beyond the politics of the day or the current events or even what the president is saying,” Honor said.
“Politics is the art of how we organize our life together, and participating in that is deeply godly,” Honor said.
The role of precinct chaplain, or poll chaplain, combines the kind of care clergy are used to offering with monitoring the polls for any signs of voter intimidation or suppression.
Their posture is similar to protest chaplains who stand between police and protesters, not with either side, he explained.
Clergy are a great fit, according to Honor, because the role draws on the things they already do best: providing spiritual care, encouraging people and offering a “ministry of presence.”
And Georgia is “ground zero for the voting rights fight,” he said.
By Election Day, the New Georgia Project, along with Candler School of Theology and Ebenezer Baptist Church, both in Atlanta, will have trained about 200 poll chaplains and assigned them to polling places it has identified as high priorities, he said.
But the idea has spread beyond Georgia. Honor also has been invited to lead online trainings for Middle Church in New York City and the United Church of Christ.
…[Rev. Adam] Taylor stressed the role poll chaplains can play in deescalating any tension at voting sites. He encouraged them to wear collars or robes — anything identifying them as clergy.
“Just your presence at a polling site is going to be a very important and potentially decisive deterrent to some folks who were planning to instigate violence or that were planning to intimidate voters,” he said.