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October 29, 2019

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Districting map from a joint select committee meeting on redistricting in Raleigh, N.C., in July 2017
A North Carolina state court effectively tossed out the state’s map of congressional districts on Monday, saying critics were poised to show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans. - via The New York Times
My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
. . . .
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

- James 2:1-4, 8-9
Implicit in the golden rule is a fundamental tenet of our faith that we are equal in the eyes of God and to that end, scripture condemns favoritism. At its heart, partisan gerrymandering is a form of favoritism; district boundaries are manipulated to establish a political advantage so that inevitably, some votes count more than others. Though gerrymandering is almost as old as the country, Republican gerrymandering since the 2010 midterm elections has been extraordinarily aggressive, with Republican legislatures misusing their redistricting power in state after state to ensure permanent Republican majorities and diminish the voting impact of Democrats and minorities. As we have seen, these gerrymandered districts have had disastrous consequences, including assaults on women’s health, suppression of minority votes, and the failure to address climate change or gun violence. 

That is why many of us were so dismayed by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last June that it did not have the ability to regulate partisan gerrymandering, however egregious. But happily, that wasn’t the end of the story. The state court panel in North Carolina found that the gerrymandered map there violated broader provisions in North Carolina’s Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech and assembly and equal protection, as well as a guarantee of free elections that does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. Though the case isn’t over, the judicial panel invited plaintiffs in the case to seek a summary judgment ending the case in their favor. Importantly, the judges said they were prepared to postpone primary elections if necessary to further litigate the case or draw new House districts.

The plaintiffs in the North Carolina case, North Carolina residents, were sponsored by the National Redistricting Foundation, an arm of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a Democratic organization led by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that is challenging partisan gerrymandering and advocating fair redistricting throughout the country. By filing lawsuits that are heard in state courts as well as federal courts, the NDRC is continuing to work to ensure that every vote is counted equally.

On a broader note, this ruling is a reminder not to lose heart. Though these are dark times, people all are over the country are working for fairness and justice at the federal, state, and local levels. Let us celebrate these victories and be encouraged as we continue the work of sacred resistance.
Sign the Fair Districts Pledge and commit to fight for fair, representative districts. 
God of all, keep us mindful that we are all created in your image with a responsibility to love our neighbors as ourselves, and help us understand the consequences of actions, like partisan gerrymandering, that violate that duty. Give us strength as we work to elect judges and political leaders that are equally mindful of this responsibility. Amen. 
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