Sanctifying The Sabbath?: North Carolina Law Prohibiting Early Voting On Sundays Harms Minorities

Creech’s fantasy, which is shared by so many in the Religious Right, doesn’t leave much room for minority voters.

Mark Creech, director of the American Family Association’s North Carolina affiliate, normally views government with a wary eye. But the state’s unprecedented roll back of voting rights banned polling on Sundays, and suddenly Creech is singing a new tune.

“We have always opposed voting on Sunday for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Sunday is the church’s prime time for developing the character of a nation,” Creech said in an official statement. He added, “It is a Sunday-cultivated character that makes an electorate fit to guard and preserve its liberties.”

It’s not the first time Creech has written against Sunday voting. In an editorial published last year, he asserted that keeping the Sabbath wasn’t simply a doctrinal obligation but rather an American tradition.

Creech is also no fan of church-state separation, calling it a cleverly designed fiction intended to push Christians out of government.

In a tirade written for Alan Keyes’ RenewAmerica this past February, Creech asserted that “Nothing in the First Amendment was ever meant to suggest our nation's Founders were trying to protect the state from the church, the government from the press, etc. The purpose of the first ten amendments to the Constitution was to create a one-way wall to protect the citizenry from the government, not the other way around.”

And in another dig at the wall of separation, he argued that, “…Sunday voting should not be legal because Churches across North Carolina need such support from the state so that they may continue to effectively do what they are commissioned to do.”

Mark Creech’s objection to Sunday voting, however, stems from something more than his concern for the Sabbath. You see, Creech is a revisionist. He’s invested in a mythology that establishes America as a “Christian nation,” and he’s trying to enshrine that mythology into law. But Creech’s fantasy, which is shared by so many in the Religious Right, doesn’t leave much room for minority voters.

In fact, these voters are collateral damage in North Carolina’s latest push to restrict voting. Creech might be pleased that the sanctity of the Sabbath is intact, but he might also be glad to know that the new law disproportionately affects black voters, who tend not to favor candidates friendly to the Religious Right.

In 2008, minority churches organized a ‘souls to polls’ push that led to 37,000 black voters casting early Sunday votes. And this isn’t an isolated trend. Research suggests that black voters are 26 times more likely to vote early than in person during national elections. Black voters also tend not to support Mark Creech’s party of choice, so it’s no wonder he’s a fan of this new law.

This is nothing but partisan politics disguised as piety. Creech isn’t just concerned about the Sabbath. He’s concerned about electing officials that will support and advance his mission to weaken the wall of separation.

At Americans United, we’re used to this rhetoric from the Religious Right. Time after time, we hear that the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee church-state separation. Religious liberty gets redefined as the right to enforce religion, rather than the right to practice it in peace.

Mark Creech’s definition doesn’t leave any space for the minority churches that organized voting drives for their members. It certainly doesn’t leave any space for Moral Mondays, on-going social justice protests started by a black minister.

Mark Creech wants to remake laws in order to force his narrow religious perspective on others. It’s unfortunate that North Carolina lawmakers allowed him to advance his agenda, at least for now.