TOPEKA — A presidential election commission that will be headed in part by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach should be “decommissioned,” leaders of a poor people’s campaign told a packed house at a large downtown Topeka church Monday night.
“Voter suppression is real, voter fraud is a lie,” the Rev. William Barber said, referring to Kobach’s drive to end what he says is fraudulent voting in Kansas elections. In years of looking, Kobach’s campaign has turned up few fraudulent voters in Kansas elections.
Kobach is a vice chairman of President Donald Trump’s election integrity commission. Kobach also is a Republican candidate running in the Kansas gubernatorial race.
Since 2010, 22 states have passed voter suppression laws, Barber said, which negatively impact blacks, Hispanics and poor whites.
Voter suppression laws are desecrating the graves of those who added to voter rights, including civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others, Barber said.
Voter fraud is not a problem, but voter suppression laws are a deep problem, said the Rev. Liz Theoharis, co-chairwoman of the Poor People’s Campaign.
The First United Methodist church sanctuary held approximately 750 people during the program Monday, Yasmari Rodriguez said. She is a co-organizer of the Kansas People Agenda.
Barber came to Topeka as part of a nationwide call-to-action campaign about working for equality and justice and helping the poor.
Barber is helping lead the “New Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival,” which is described as a “grassroots effort that draws upon the history, vision and unfinished work” of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Barber, 53, is pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, N.C., and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in North Carolina.
The Monday event was sponsored by the Kansas Interfaith Action.
Kansas Interfaith Action officials describe their group as “a statewide, multi-faith issue-advocacy organization that ‘puts faith into action’ by educating, engaging and advocating on behalf of people of faith and the public regarding critical social, economic and climate justice issues.”
Barber sparked national headlines in July when he said praying for the president was a form of “theological malpractice that borders on heresy.”
Barber’s well-publicized comments in July stemmed from a photo showing evangelical Christian leaders laying hands on Trump and praying for the president in the Oval Office.
“When you can p-r-a-y for a president and others while they p-r-e-y, preying on the most vulnerable,” he told MSNBC, “you’re violating the sacred principles of religion.”
Barber told the Topeka Capital-Journal that in the comments that gained national attention, he quoted several scripture passages “and made the point that praying for any president without critiquing their policies that hurt the least of these and ‘preys’ on the least of these borders on heresy.”
Barber denied saying praying for Trump was heresy.
Barber’s comments in July regarding those who prayed for Trump were met with swift opposition from the North Carolina Republican Party, which responded with a news release condemning what it called the “hateful actions” of Barber.
Earlier this week, while on his national call-to-action tour in New Mexico, Barber responded to comments made by Trump regarding the deadly protests Aug. 13 in Charlottesville, Va., when the president said there was “blame on both sides” of the violence, referring to the white supremacists and counter-protesters.
The Albuquerque Journal quoted Barber as saying the president “was justifying white supremacy.”
“We must make a moral choice,” Barber told the Journal. “We can take the righteous road of repair … or we can, as we did half a century ago, follow those who would lead our nation down the road of denial and retreat.”
Barber also said the nation had come to a crossroads, according to an article in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.
Barber said in July he particularly was concerned over Republican efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. He contended “thousands will die” if the health care act was overturned.