Pastors ask candidates to sign ‘no vote-buying’ pledge

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SALYERSVILLE - While the old adage “politics and religion don’t mix,” a group of local pastors beg to differ.

Several weeks ago 13 Magoffin preachers signed a letter to the editor, published in the Independent, explaining why they consider vote-buying as an action against the Bible. Since then, three more pastors have joined the cause, pushing the number up to 16, and Monday night, the group met with the Independent, explaining why they are now asking all Magoffin County candidates running for election in November to sign a “no vote-buying pledge.”

“Everyone knows the old adage ‘politics and religion don’t mix,’ but it’s far from the truth, really,” one pastor in attendance explained. “Every aspect of your life, every deed, every move is included in your Christian walk. You can’t separate the two.”

The group argues that historically religious leaders have had to come together in the past to bring about necessary change, even down to the creation of the United States of America, and that it is their job as pastors to lead their community away from perversions of justice.

“We’re dealing with this at the local level and part of the problem is it’s always been this way. We even see it at the national level. That’s how they justify it, but it’s still illegal and morally wrong,” Justin Williams, the pastor spearheading the project, said.

The pastors said they want the pledge to be seen as a positive thing, creating a sense of hope in the community, starting with a fair and honest election.

“People see this group as pastors becoming political, but this is Christians becoming proactive,” one pastor explained.

While they said they have been outspoken on other moral issues facing the community, they said that for too long they have not spoken out against corruption in politics, allowing it to become common place.

“The White House can change here in Magoffin,” one said. “The time is here and this group has been brought together for this.”

The group, comprised mostly of working pastors, told the Independent how vote-buying has affected them, personally. Being approached to sell their votes, or implied implications to vote a certain way, hit home for several of them, but they want more for the community. 

“How great would it be if - when I take my three daughters to the polls to show them how to vote - how great would it be if vote-buying was not even part of the discussion?” Williams said.

As far as why they are getting involved, one pastor simply asked, “If we don’t do this now, how can we tell our churches to stand up for what’s right? Actual leaders lead from the front.”

Another preacher said, “What a novel idea for someone without a dime in his pocket - a good and wise person - to be elected just because he was the right person for the job?”

The pastors acknowledged the statement many have made that the pledge “won’t do any good.” While they know some will sign it with every intention of buying votes, they said they believe, by signing the pledge, it will affect them.

“If they have a conscience, it will affect them and it will bug them,” one preacher said. “There’s this mindset out there that Christians should not be involved in politics. If we take that approach, what kind of society will we have? The people with power over us with no conscience or moral compass? We need Godly influence.”

 The group reiterated that they are not backing a particular candidate or political party, but simply a fair election.

“I want this to be as sure as the fish fries and the hog roasts, that every election we are going to ask the candidates to sign this pledge,” Williams explained.

By holding candidates accountable, and raising awareness to the public that vote-buying is illegal and morally wrong, the group of pastors said they hope this can change the cultural attitude about morality, including within local politics.

“Vote-buying preys on the poor - not just monetarily poor, but also spiritually poor,” the pastors said. “We want to minister them, not persecute. If we can move them in any way to look at the moral values - encourage people to search their hearts and bring awareness to the importance of values and integrity - that’s what we are trying to do here. People tell me, ‘God doesn’t care who gets elected,’ but when the wicked are in power, the righteous suffer.”

The pledge, which asked candidates to vow they will not in any way participate or allow vote-buying to occur on their behalf, can be seen on the front page of this week’s paper and the list of those who have signed will run every week in the Independent until the election.

In attendance at the round-table discussion Monday night were: Justin Williams with Lakeville Baptist, Brian Bailey with Ivyton Baptist, Kenny Bailey with Little Rachel Baptist, Richard Greene with Licking River Baptist, Micheal Tackett with New Generation Church, John Blanton with State Road United Baptist, Greg Minix with Half Mountain United Baptist, Randy Brown with Swampton United Baptist, Michael Hornback with Salyersville First Baptist, Mark D. Campbell with Emmanuel Baptist, and William Paul Perkins with New Life Worship Center. Not in attendance, but included in the movement are: Floyd Arnett with Salyersville Free Will Baptist, Larry Patrick with Lakefront Church of God, Jim Arnett with Unity Harvest, Ollie Watts with Brushy Fork Baptist, and Matthew Caudill with Community Free Will.