ATLANTA - The Georgia bishop who had been calling for a boycott on Georgia-based products has since postponed the efforts to financially protest the state's new election law.
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who presides over more than 500 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, said the law is "racist and seeks to return us to the days of Jim Crow." He called upon his 90,000 parishioners on Monday to participate in the boycott on the companies.
Jackson called for corporate leaders at Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines to speak out in opposition.
The bishop said many of those companies agreed to meet with faith-based leaders and civil rights advocates on the afternoon of April 13, when the boycott was originally scheduled, leading to the decision.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Bishop Jackson wrote:
"Last month, Georgians and Americans all across the country were frustrated and angered by the passage and Gov. Kemp's signing into law suppressive and racist legislation whose intent is to make it harder for African Americans to vote in Georgia. Making many of us even more frustrated and angry was the silence of our local corporate leaders. Some companies even praised the legislation for not being as bad as it could have been.
"In response to the signing of this legislation and the silence from Georgia's corporate executives, faith leaders across the nation committed to boycott Georgia corporations who failed to speak out in opposition to this suppressive and racist legislation.
"Since that call to boycott, The Coca-Cola Company and Delta Airlines have subsequently broken their public silence and came out strongly against SB 202. We are convinced that if faith leaders had not publicly committed to a boycott, they would not have spoken out publicly.
"In addition, since this unjust legislation was signed into law, the facts have emerged.
"It is clear to everyone that Georgia voters now have far less time to request absentee ballots, that it is far harder to receive an absentee ballot, and far more challenging to submit one. Early voting has also been drastically minimalized for Georgia voters. Misdemeanor charges can now be brought up for offering food or water to people waiting in long lines to vote. And perhaps most concerning, the State Election Board is now controlled by the Republican-controlled legislature, and the Secretary of State has now been removed as a voting member. These are the facts, and they are indisputable.
"While we wish Coke and Delta had spoken out prior to SB 202 passing, we believe this is a good start to further public action.
"After a conversation with Mr. James Quincey, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, he has agreed to help arrange a virtual meeting between faith leaders and corporate executives from Delta-Airlines, Home Depot, AT&T, Southern Company, Aflac, UPS, and several other Georgia-based companies. I am pleased to announce that this closed-door meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday, April 13, at 3:30 PM.
"Most of the country is awaiting the launch of our planned corporate boycott, which was initially scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, April 7. However, in a show of good faith and trust, the faith-based community of Georgia has agreed to postpone its decision to boycott until this scheduled corporate meeting concludes on the 13th.
"Our fervent hope is that this April 13th meeting will be productive. Nobody wants a boycott, and the faith-based community stands committed to doing all that is possible to assist the corporate community in doing the right thing. That includes communication, engagement, and information sharing. Ultimately, we are postponing our decision to boycott based on a fundamental hope that there is far more that unites our corporate and the faith-based communities than divides us.
"We want to reaffirm our commitment to boycott those companies that fail to publicly speak out in opposition to any legislation that seeks to suppress Black and Brown people's votes. Currently, more than 40 states are considering legislation that seeks to suppress and make it harder to vote. Voter suppression is a national issue that threatens our democracy and the integrity of our elections.
"We also expect corporate leaders to support the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the voting rights provisions of the For the People Act, two pieces of federal legislation that could mitigate only some of the harms being brought forth from state legislatures.
"Additionally, we call upon corporate leaders to support litigation that seeks to have this suppressive legislation ruled unconstitutional.
"These expectations are not partisan, ideological, or look to favor one party over another. Instead, our focus is to ensure the right of every citizen to cast their ballot without unnecessary obstacles. Equally, we also condemn the threats of Georgia legislators to go after our corporations for speaking out against this suppressive legislation.
"In the days leading up to our meeting on April 13, we will continue to provide updates on the movement we have built, including our planned protests during the Masters this weekend."
The change to Georgia’s election law was made after Democrats won the presidential contest and two U.S. Senate runoffs in the once reliably red state.
The new election law was signed Thursday by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, just hours after it cleared the state legislature. It is part of a tide of GOP-sponsored election bills introduced in states across the country after former President Donald Trump made false claims about election fraud.
The Georgia law adds a photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail, cuts the amount of time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed. It also bans people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line and allows the Republican-controlled State Election Board to remove and replace county election officials.
Republicans in Georgia argue that the law is needed to restore voters’ confidence.
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