The Springfield Chapter of the NAACP says it has begun issuing what it calls a “toolkit for local clergy,” to help them protect their church properties in advance of the upcoming Presidential election. The toolkit also includes an initiative urging church leaders and members to become engaged in the election. For Talbert Swan, President of the NAACP’s local branch, you only need to look back to the 2008 election-night burning of the Macedonia Church of God In Christ in Springfield, just hours after Barack Obama became the first African-American to win the Presidency, as evidence for the need for such a toolkit. Swan, who also heads a church in the city, says if anything, he believes racial animosity has gotten worse in the current political climate. He says the toolkit contains an assortment of security measures, including how to protect churches from vandalism and burglary, and how to arson-proof church property.
“We would rather be safe than sorry. If it happened four years ago there’s the potential that it can happen this year as well. And so we wanted to make sure that houses of worship had the necessary resources to be able to protect themselves.”
Swan says the voter initiative is designed to get faith leaders involved in informing and encouraging their congregations to get registered and vote. He says he’s heard from many clergy, particularly fellow Christians, who say they would not get involved in the political process.
“There are some who have taken the position that they won’t support the President because of his stance on gay marriage. There are others who have taken the position they won’t support Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon. And there are others who have taken the position that they’re going to tell their members not to go out and vote at all. I don’t think that is a mature approach to take.”
Swan says the NAACP’s voter initiative called “Let My People Vote” is being carried out in partnership with a national network of non-partisan, faith-based community organizations.