A group of black faith leaders representing more than 1,000 churches in Georgia will call for a boycott of Home Depot over the hardware store’s silence on the state’s new voting law.
“We don’t believe this is simply a political matter,” Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who is leading the effort, told the New York Times. “This is a matter that deals with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote.”
Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist Episcopal churches in Georgia, said Home Depot “demonstrated an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out in opposition to this legislation.”
While Democrats have been critical of the new law, claiming that it makes it more difficult for individuals, particularly black voters, to exercise their constitutional right to vote, some opponents, including Stacey Abrams, have begged people not to boycott the state in response.
“Black, Latino, AAPI and Native American voters that are the most suppressed over [the new law] are the most likely to be hurt by potential boycotts of Georgia. To our friends, please do not boycott us. To my fellow Georgians, stay and fight, stay and vote,” Abrams said earlier this month.
Aunna Dennis, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, spoke out against the call to boycott Home Depot.
“I can’t fully support a boycott within Georgia,” Dennis said. “The boycott hurts the working-class person. But corporations do need to be held accountable on where they put their dollars.”
However, the coalition of faith leaders see the boycott as a “necessary evil.”
“It is unfortunate for those who will be impacted by this, but how many more million will be impacted if they don’t have the right to vote?” said Jamal H. Bryant, the senior pastor of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.
“And so in weighing it out, we understand, tongue in cheek, that this is a necessary evil,” Bryant said. “But it has to happen in order for the good to happen.”
The group also noted that boycotts had been used in the civil rights movement and suggested their call to action was a “warning shot” for other state legislatures.
“This is not just a Georgia issue; we’re talking about democracy in America that is under threat,” said Reverend Timothy McDonald III, the pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. “We’ve got to use whatever leverage and power, spiritual fortitude that we have, including our dollars, to help people to understand that this is a national campaign.”
Proponents of the law deny accusations that it aims to suppress votes, pointing out that the legislation does not place new limits on voting hours and makes the state’s elections more secure without restricting voter access. They have argued that the law has been misrepresented.
Home Depot is headquartered in the Peach State, where it is also one of the largest employers. Other major Georgia corporations, including Coca-Cola and Delta, have spoken out against the new law, while Home Depot has not.
The company’s only comment on this issue came earlier this month: “the most appropriate approach for us to take is to continue to underscore our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and secure.
Jackson said that the faith leaders are calling on Home Depot to speak out and back litigation against the Georgia law, to publicly oppose similar bills in other states and to offer support for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress.