Religious community members advocate for putting spiritual beliefs behind your vote

Attendees of diverse backgrounds discussed the role of religious values in voting, leading up to the midterm election

With Election Day around the corner, members of many faiths gathered at the Values in the Voting Booth event on Oct. 21 to discuss how they could apply their religious virtues to the ballot.

The event was put on by the Guibord Center and hosted at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Koreatown, and was attended by nearly 100 people of various backgrounds. A series of speakers and musicians delivered messages encouraging people of different faiths to come together participate in the upcoming election.

The Rev. Gwynne Guibord is founder and president of the Guibord Center, an interfaith organization dedicated to connecting people of different beliefs. She said people of diverse backgrounds need to participate in civic discussions to share their perspectives on national and local issues.

"I'm hoping today that people will leave realizing that all of us have been created in the image of the Holy," said Guibord, an Episcopal priest. "All deserve respect and are to be given their due in today's society, regardless of color or class or religion or faith or creed."

Although the event was nonpartisan, the discussion of government in the religious community is necessary because spiritual beliefs are a fundamental part of people's political views, Guibord said. She emphasized that the values of compassion and justice must be considered in the midst of this turbulent political climate.

"We have been given license to be uncivil. We've lost our civility," she said. "I thought it was important that we come from a faithful perspective of what are the values that we're going to take into the midterm election that's coming up very very soon."

Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Beth Shir Shalom Synagogue said bringing together everyone's beliefs could help give a voice to minority groups throughout the country.

"I felt that this voice needed to be heard, and needed to be empowered so that people could hone in on the values that are theirs from their own religious tradition and also through other ones … and take them into the voting booth," Comess-Daniels said.

The discussion of the intersection of religion and politics could help people understand how their values can be applied to voting and other civic decisions, he added.

"I hope that people will gain a certain kind of confidence (and) that their spiritual values can speak to what's going on in the country and in the world and have an effect," Comess-Daniels said.

Rahuldeep Gill, a professor of religion at California Lutheran University, said events like these can help open the door to conversations about the role of religion in civic duty.

"What I hope for this event is not that they'll go vote in any one election or even that they'll vote for any particular party," Gill said. "For me, what's important is that we begin to normalize some of the difficult conversations that we have to have as a democratic nation."

While approximately 22 percent of Americans do not subscribe to a particular faith, according to the Pew Research Center, the dialogue of compassion and justice in government is still important for everyone to have, Gill said.

"In our democracy we allow the free exercise of religion and we don't allow any religion to be established," he said, "and I think that the hope is that in between those two pillars of our religious freedom, we have people who are using faith as a way to deepen their values and to understand what it is that they want in the society that they live in."

Throughout the day, the event's speakers encouraged people of different backgrounds to come together to share their thoughts and ideas.

"Hopefully this is just the beginning of a series of events that Muslims around the nation will host, as well as Sikhs like myself, as well as Christians continue to do, as well as humanists and atheists and Buddhists and everyone in between," Gill said.