A grand coalition of black faith leaders in Georgia, representing more than 1,000 churches in the state, will call for a boycott of Home Depot on Tuesday, arguing that the company has relinquished its responsibility as a good citizen by the cannot be reduced. new voting law.
The call for a boycott, led by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all 534 African Methodist episcopal churches in Georgia, is one of the first important steps to put significant economic pressure on businesses to be more outspoken against the Republican efforts in Georgia and across the country to introduce new voting restrictions.
"We don't believe this is just a political issue," Bishop Jackson said in an interview. "This is an issue that has to do with securing the future of this democracy, and the greatest right in this democracy is the right to vote."
Home Depot, Mr. Jackson said, "showed an indifference, a lack of response to the call, not only from clergy, but a call from other groups to speak out against this legislation."
While it may be difficult to enact boycotts in a way that puts significant financial pressure on large corporations, the call nevertheless represents a new phase in the struggle for the right to vote in Georgia, where many Democrats and civil rights groups are reluctant to support boycotts. they risk unfair collateral damage to the employees of the companies.
But the coalition of faith leaders pointed to the use of boycotts in the civil rights movement when the rights of black voters were also under threat, saying their call to action was intended as a "warning shot" for other state legislatures.
“This is not just an issue in Georgia; We're talking democracy in America under threat, & # 39; & # 39; said Pastor Timothy McDonald III, the pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta. "We must use every influence and power, spiritual strength we have, including our dollars, to help people understand that this is a national campaign."
Home Depot's headquarters are in Georgia, and it is one of the largest employers in the state. But while other big companies in Georgia want Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the state's new voting law, Home Depot not, with only a statement this month that “the most appropriate approach for us is to continue to underline our belief that all elections should be accessible, fair and safe. "
While one of the company's founders, Arthur Blank, did not wade publicly into the fray, he said in a phone conversation with other company executives this month that he supported the right to vote. Another founder, Ken Langone, is an outspoken supporter of former President Donald J. Trump.
Mr. Jackson said faith leaders are calling for four specific actions by Home Depot: speaking out against Georgia voting bill, publicly opposing similar bills in other states, supporting the John Lewis Voting Rights Act in Congress, and lawsuits against Georgian law.
Not all voting rights groups are on board with a boycott.
"I cannot fully support a boycott within Georgia," said Aunna Dennis, the executive director of Common Cause's Georgia division. “The boycott harms the working class. But companies should be held accountable for where they place their dollars. "
Faith leaders recognized the concerns of state leaders, both Democratic and Republican, about the impact of boycotts, but felt the stakes were high enough.
"It's a shame for those affected by this, but how many million more will be affected 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, Georgia.
"And so by weighing it up, we understand, with a wink, that this is a necessary evil," said Dr. Bryant. "But it has to happen for the good to happen."