Churches urge their members to vote wisely in 2007 local elections

As Local Authority elections draw near and candidates begin tocanvas for support, The Baptist Union of Great Britain, TheMethodist Church and The United Reformed Church have joinedtogether to encourage people to get involved, ask their candidatesthe hard questions, and to vote for candidates who will contributeto the common good.

On Thursday 3 May 2007, there will be local government elections inEngland, local government and Scottish Parliamentary elections inScotland, and National Assembly elections in Wales.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, The Methodist Church and TheUnited Reformed Church have produced a briefing for the Englishlocal council elections, which can be found at www.jointpublicissues.org.uk/jpit_englishlocalelections_0307.pdf.The three denominations suggest some questions that could be usedto quiz candidates on a range of important issues such as housing,council tax, community relations, alcohol and gambling.

Anthea Cox, Methodist Coordinating Secretary for Public Life &Social Justice, says; 'We would encourage everyone to take aninterest in this year's elections. We hope that people will ask thequestions that are important to them, think carefully about whereto place their vote and hold councillors accountable for theirpolicies and promises.'

The denominations' engagement with government on social andpolitical issues has always sprung from a concern for thedisadvantaged in society and they have particularly raised concernsabout parties that advocate hatred and fear of racial, religious orother minorities.

Stuart Dew, URC secretary for Church and Society, says; 'The rightto vote is both a privilege and a responsibility. We may takedifferent views about which political approach best reflects ourChristian calling, but it is important that we do express our viewsby voting.'

Graham Sparkes, Head of Faith and Unity for the Baptist Union ofGreat Britain, says; 'Decisions made at local level can directlyaffect the communities in which we live, so how we choose to votematters! It will help determine the priority we give to caring forthe vulnerable, the way our children are educated, and how we useour public spaces. Such issues can have a tremendous impact on thequality of peoples lives.'

The denominations have made it clear that the racist and intolerantpolicies expressed by some parties are incompatible with theirunderstanding of God's love for all people. They have encouragedpeople to exercise their right to vote, and urged them to rejectparties which aim to stir up racial or religious hatred. TheMethodist Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have alsopublished guidelines for churches that find themselves representedby a councillor from an extremist party.

Resources are also available for the Scottish Parliament and localgovernment elections from www.actsparl.org/election.htm.