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Religious Voters Look for Moral Leadership in Veep Debate

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Wednesday, October 7, 2020   

RALEIGH, N.C. -- As Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Republican incumbent Mike Pence gear up for their first debate tonight, some Christian voters say they're overshadowed by media coverage of far-right, evangelical issues.

Reverend Dr. Oliver M. Thomas, an associate pastor in Greensboro, N.C., said national politicians continue to pander to religious voters on such issues as abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood -- even though most people of faith are focused on candidates' views on health care, the pandemic, economic inequality and racial justice.

"People are afraid that their voice will not be heard," Thomas lamented. "People are afraid that their vote, as a way of speaking their voice, will not be heard or recognized. People also are responding to what they've already seen, unfortunately, from too many politicians who have not been listening."

Thomas is convinced many voters, even those who may not identify as religious, are seeking moral leadership as political polarization increases and COVID-19 continues to claim lives.

A Pew study released earlier this year found 94% of all Americans think it's important to have a president who "lives a moral, ethical life."

Thomas, who also is an adjunct professor of political science and history at North Carolina A&T State University, described himself as "troubled" by the tendency of some religious voters to view President Donald Trump as a messiah.

"And then, if we elect those folks, then they are going to do what God has called us to do, and called them to do," he pointed out. "That, I disagree with -- no politician is God, or can stand in the place of God."

He added people of faith across the state can use their values to vote for candidates who will make the greatest impact in their communities.

"From our Board of Education, to our city council, to our county commissioners," he said, "that is, electing people who will listen, who will be present to the community, and who will allow the community members' voices to be heard and not ignored."

According to the North Carolina Board of Elections, more than 1 million residents have requested vote-by-mail absentee ballots for the November election, around 10 times higher than in 2016.



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