Faith leaders organized thousands of voters across the state, at stops in more than 16 cities, calling for healing our democracy and highlighting the urgency of this election cycle.
Philadelphia, PA (November 4, 2022) – POWER Interfaith’s Freedom Express Bus tour triumphantly concluded its three-week statewide action campaign that spanned 16 cities, with more than 25 events aimed at organizing thousands of people to vote their conscience. The clergy rallied, agitated, prayed, disrupted, celebrated and came together in solidarity with individuals and organizational partners across the state. They registered voters, called out bad actors, educated about the threat that White Christian Nationalism poses to our democracy, and invited people to find a spiritual and political home with POWER Interfaith.
Speaking at the electrifying press conference that launched the campaign, Rev. Nicolas O’Rourke, Pastor of Living Water UCC an Organizing Director Working Families Party declared, “[the] extreme right wing out here in PA has toxified faith, hijacked Christianity, and tried to make you believe that God’s love is scarce — for the few, for the white, for the Right-wing. We know that’s just not true.” The actions of the next three weeks followed these principles of reclaiming faith, uplifting the voices of the marginalized, and calling out injustice.
In Philadelphia, the clergy joined Philly Thrive in their civil disobedience to draw attention to corporate actors who infringe on the “Right to Breathe” and exclude communities of color from decisions that directly affect them. They then participated in an action to address the national gun violence epidemic. On their way out of the city, they stopped at the home of Jeffery Yass—the richest man in PA and single largest donor to PA’s rightwing dark money infrastructure, to pray for his repentance and shine a light on his shadowy dealings.
The clergy moved on to host a “Party at the Ballot Box” to celebrate the power of our votes with the Allentown community, where they got fired up with a live DJ, and registered dozens of new voters. Later, they joined The Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley for dinner, prayer, an interfaith service with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian speakers, and a discussion with over a hundred people about the importance of voting in this election cycle.
The third week included standing together with the Shut Down Berks Coalition members Make The Road PA and CAIR-PA at Berks Detention Center in a vigil for incarcerated immigrant women, shining the light of moral courage on ICE and our country’s shameful detention policies. In Pittsburgh, POWER Interfaith, 1hood, Bend the Arc, and PIIN held a Lunch and Learn where speakers with decades of experience in activism and public service conversed with luminaries carrying the lineage of democracy defense into the present gubernatorial election cycle.
Nowhere are the battlescars of our nation’s history of political division more visible than in Gettysburg. There the clergy rallied to heal our democracy, and draw attention to how the legacy of the Confederacy has a direct line to current White Christian Nationalism and present-day insurrectionists. In Harrisburg, the tour concluded with direct action aimed at Jeffrey Yass, and the Commonwealth Foundation that he funds. POWER Interfaith reiterated the demand that no one in the elected office take money from Yass or the Commonwealth Foundation.
At every stop, clergy promoted a vision for building a beloved community in the state of PA that is rooted in inclusivity, diversity, and justice. Alana Krivo Kaufman, Rabbinic Intern at Mishkan Shakom, reflected on her participation saying “[t]his righteous pilgrimage across Pennsylvania was about holding fast to an abundant future, towards collective care and solidarity. We are cultivating a multi-racial, multi-religious antidote to White Christian Nationalism — a future where we all show up for each other.” The work, however, does not end here or even at Election Day. Having returned to their respective communities, participants will continue to mobilize and organize their congregations and neighbors in the movement to uplift one another in our diversity, recognize the urgency to vote one’s conscience, and heal our faith in democracy.
To learn more about the Freedom Express campaign, please visit https://powerinterfaith.org/freedom-express-bus-tour/#events.