Voting is a Sacred Obligation

By Mike Kennedy, Faith Climate Justice Voter Campaign Manager
August 17, 2022

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb of Bethesda, Md.’s Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation encouraged an IPL webinar audience that voting is a “sacred obligation” and “awesome opportunity.”

“The Jewish tradition says, if something matters enough, it’s no longer just a good idea,” Dobb, an IPL board member, said during IPL’s August 9 webinar about sermons, divrei Torah, and khutbahs crafted to encourage voting. “It’s mandated. Like charity. You can give even more, but a certain amount of generosity is actually obligatory, not just voluntary. We call it ‘tzedakah’, not just charity, but righteousness and justice.”

“Same for voting and for involvement in the democratic enterprise within a free society. It’s not just a good idea. It’s, religiously speaking, the law. Voting and defending democracy, is, in Jewish parlance, a mitzvah, a sacred obligation that is in turn also an awesome opportunity. I pray that we can all articulate in our own faith language how this is, in fact, a holy imperative for all of us.”

The webinar reminded faith leaders of the importance of using their prophetic voices to call the faithful to live by their most deeply held values in an election year, and that voting is one way we can all bring forth a world rooted in those values.

Imam Mustapha Elturk, President of the North American Islamic Organization in Michigan, said the Prophet Muhammad once stated, “Whoever sees something that is detested, let him change it by hand.”  Elturk added, “I use the word ‘hand’ to mean authority. We could change things through the courts, but more so through the ballot. Go out and vote. Take with your ‘hand’ this ballot and stick it in the (ballot) box.

IPL Board Chair the Rev. Dr. Gerald L. Durley offered important counsel to those who don’t preach. “So if any of you who are not necessarily clergy but you need your (spiritual) leader (to preach on voting), you’ve got to let them know that they have an obligation,” Durley said. “They have been, we call it in our tradition, called for such a time as this, to speak to the conditions of our people.”

“Can I use a word that we don’t use now?,” Durley asked. “Right and wrong. There are certain things that are just not right. It’s not right what these petroleum companies are doing. It’s not right what they’re doing in the gas and fuel. So in (preaching), you’re not talking about red or blue, you’re talking about some basic fundamental ethical questions that need moral answers to, and that will give people the impetus to try to move ahead to make a difference and I think that that’s how you inspire people.”

The full webinar and short answers from it are available here. If you want to offer a message this fall on the importance of voting, let us know here and we will send you a nonpartisan sermon resource document.