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Today, the people of Ukraine are fighting to save their democracy from Russian aggression. Their fight is costly: nearly 1,000 civilian deaths, numerous destroyed cities and more than three million refugees, mostly women and children. 

But still the Ukrainians resist. And I admire them for it.

President Joe Biden recently said this war was one of authoritarianism against democracy, the rule of one man and party versus the rule of the people, by the people and for the people.

Authoritarianism threatens not just Ukraine and the rest of Europe, but also America.

We witnessed in horror the violent and deadly insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on January 6, 2021. The rioters, encouraged by elected officials, included some people who allegedly sought to overthrow our constitutional democracy.

Now, a different kind of assault on democracy is under way in many state legislatures, including in Missouri. It is a non-violent one, although election workers, governors, secretaries of state and other officials have been threatened, forcing some resignations.

Americans, increasingly, are accepting violence in politics.  In January, National Public Radio reported on a COVID States Project poll in which nearly one-quarter of Americans, conservatives and liberals alike, said violence against the government was sometimes justified. One-tenth, mostly Republicans and conservatives, said that it was justified “right now.”

Meanwhile, efforts are being made in conservative majority statehouses to restrict citizen participation in elections, although such an intention is seldom stated outright.

According to the recent “Voting Laws Roundup” by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, as of January members of at least 27 state legislatures, in filing 250 proposed bills, seek to restrict people’s right to vote and their participation in democracy.

These bills, if passed, would: limit access to mail voting; impose new or stricter voter ID requirements for in-person-voting and registration; create barriers for voters with disabilities; limit or eliminate same-day voter registration; and establish new proof of citizenship requirements.

Other bills, Brennan reports, would: initiate biased, unsecured audits of elections, including the 2020 general election; introduce law enforcement in election matters; impose new criminal or civil penalties on election officials for actions to expand voter access or for minor mistakes; and replace professional elections officials with partisans.

The upsurge in such legislation, the center reports, is due to the false claim promoted by the former U.S. President and his supporters that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. This assertion has been disproved many times by audits and in court cases. Indeed, U.S. election experts and the former President’s own Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Agencies say that the election was the most secure in history.

I support Ukraine’s fight to save its democracy. Most Americans do.

And I applaud the efforts of Missouri Faith Voices, the NAACP, the Missouri Voter Coalition and its members, the League of Women Voters, Empower Abilities and other groups to protect the vote and preserve democracy in this state and nation. 

Marla Marantz of Faith Voices says “Americans have the right to choose their own leaders, but leaders don’t have the right to choose their own voters.”

Every eligible American citizen, age 18 or older, has the Constitutional right to vote, regardless of race or sex or income or any other conditions; and indeed the law says this right must not be denied or abridged or restricted.

“The vote is a right,” Marantz emphasizes, “not a privilege (to be granted).”

I registered to vote at age 18, and I have voted in every election since. I do so because I cherish democracy. Although our system is imperfect, it is better than any other in the world.

Certainly, it is better than that of Putin’s Russia, or that of nearly 50 other countries that are dictatorships.

I look forward to going to my polling place at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5, and voting in the Greene County elections. I will choose two of the five candidates for seats on the board of the  Springfield Public Schools.

In this and in future elections, I will support candidates who are people of good character and values and who are committed to keeping their oaths of office and to protecting our democracy.

And I will vote for candidates whose platforms are in concord with and not contrary to the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. He taught and lived the love of God for all people. Love, theologian Miroslav Volf writes in his book “A Public Faith,” is striving for the “flourishing” of every human being.

Because I believe in democracy, revere it, I vote. And I participate in the work of Faith Voices and other groups that seek to protect the right to vote and to promote good government.

Daily, I pray for the people of Ukraine and for their victory in the war against authoritarian Russia. And as they are victorious in preserving their democracy, so may we be with ours here, with God’s help.

Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley

The Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley is an Episcopal priest, writer and spiritual director. He is also chaplain at the Council of Churches of the Ozarks. He writes a monthly column for the Hauxeda. Contact him at: gdisgood@sbcglobal.net More by Rev. Kenneth L. Chumbley