The Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church, a 12,000+ congregation in Dallas, Texas, urges believers to combat voting suppression efforts occurring throughout the nation
As the U.S. observed Black History Month, African Americans contributions were saluted on a daily basis. Although March is here, Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes believes that it’s our mission to continue to focus on the accomplishments of people of color.
Internationally known as the visionary pastor of the 12,000-member Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, Haynes aims to keep Black achievements at the forefront of nation’s conscious, particularly in the area of voting rights.
The hard-fought battles during the mid-20th century to secure the vote for Black people are in danger of being rolled back. Stringent laws passed by state legislatures in many Southern states are making it more difficult for ethnic and economic minorities to cast a ballot.
But, Haynes is determined to fight against these new measures by educating African Americans about the importance of voter registration with the goal of compelling believers to act. Describing his mission as an extension of his call to preach, he’s taking “the ministry from the sanctuary to the streets to the political suites. It’s all encompassing.”
Maintaining the right to vote is especially important in light of the mid-term elections, which will occur in the U.S. in late 2022 and early 2023. If Black people do not vote or are prevented from voting, Haynes said Congressional seats and judicial appointments would be affected.
“The midterm election could result in the disenfranchisement of Black voters and it will show up next year in the number of Democratic Congressional representatives. Also, judicial appointments and Supreme Court appointments can be blocked by the same people who engage in voting suppression tactics,” explained the pastor.
“Not only do we have states like Texas putting up barriers to voting, but you also have states not making it easier to vote. Until we make voting as easy as possible for everyone, what happens in Texas can have an impact in California. If they will lie in Texas, they’ll spread the lie in California,” insisted Haynes; referring to the falsehood promoted by right-wing Republicans that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
To help stop the lie, Haynes recommended instructing the electorate about everything connected to the issue of voting. And the teaching must begin immediately.
“We literally have to use this time to self-educate ourselves – not just about the issues, but how democracy works, and in terms of the power of the vote. We have to make [voting education] a part of our churches, fraternities, sororities and organizations,” he said.
“We have to incorporate the study of government back into all that we do, so that we are teaching truth as opposed to allowing ignorance to order our steps. We must do everything in our power to not just engage in voting registration, but also in voting education.”
And to those who argue for a separation between church affairs and worldly issues, Haynes cited Psalms 24:1. It reads, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (KJV)
Stressing that everything “belongs to God,” the senior pastor responded, “My faith never divorces my religion from my reality or my politics from piety or the social from the spiritual. They all go together. I have a responsibility to speak to the whole of our experience. Jesus was not only in the sanctuary, He was in the streets.”
Haynes will take his voting education message to the streets as well, beyond sanctuaries to cities and towns around the nation. In fact, he considers his role as expanding the commemoration of Black History Month beyond February and he invites all African Americans to join him in the effort.
“It’s very important that we not settle for celebrating history, but be inspired to make history. I think it’s very important to study that we are the descendants of brilliant, amazing game changers that bring flavor and soul to everything in the world itself and that this country has become,” he noted.
“But, let’s make a commitment to make history. We owe it to not only our heritage, but to our future. We need to make the future brighter and better. We have a responsibility to make a difference and to make an impact!”