Last night at the State Central Meeting – a Party Amendment was introduced which would require a “religious exemption” – aka Orthodox Jews could vote early. This Amendment did not pass after a “motion to defer” to a Committee failed to meet the 50% threshold. Members of the Conservative Fellowship in RPV wanted to defer this amendment, have it studied by an RPV Committee – work out the kinks, and then re-introduce the religious exemption next year and pass it at at that time. Several people have accused Members of the RPV Conservative Fellowship of being narrow minded in denying Orthodox Jews the right to vote. Quite frankly, I really do not have any issue with the religious exemption amendment, and we should be trying to make things easier for people to vote rather than more difficult.
However, whenever something occurs in any organization or to any process, there is always a reaction, and usually there are unintended consequences. The problem here was not so much the language of the amendment, but rather the timing. This amendment was introduced less than 3 weeks before the State Convention – meaning there had not been a full vetting of what could go wrong or not go wrong. And if you are going to have a religious exemption, how is the Credentials Committee (the Committee that determines which delegates are legal convention voters and which aren’t) to determine who goes to what church? This has the potential for serious error – which is why we needed to have a group study this issue – figure out what is the best way to handle this issue so that we respect religious rights but at the same time can ensure that there is no trickery and that the convention goes off according to the rules.
There was some serious concern that neither Orthodox Jews and 7th Day Adventists could not thus attend the 2021 State Convention unless this religious exemption was passed. However RPV has been having conventions for many years – State/District/Legislative District etc. We’ve never had an issue with Orthodox Jews or 7th Day Adventists voting before. No one has ever brought this issue up before. In the 2020 6th District Convention, 2 Orthodox Jews voted on a Saturday in July. And these same two Orthodox Jews will be at the State Convention voting on May 8, 2021. Both attend a synagogue, and neither will be banished by God or by their Rabbi. I know this to be true because I spoke to several Orthodox Jews inside and surrounding the 6th Congressional District about attending the RPV 2021 State Convention – and each of these men of faith stated that they looked forward to attending the convention. Regarding 7th Day Adventists – the church would prefer that as little work as possible be done on Saturdays, however, the 7th Day Adventist Church does understand that some things cannot be put off, and thus no 7th Day Adventist will be banished or humiliated before God for attending a convention. There was some talk about 7th Day Baptists as well – however with less than 45,000 Members worldwide, and the high degree of probability that there are few if any 7th Day Baptists in Virginia……..Please do not buy into the hype that RPV, or the Members of RPV who voted to table the religious exemption are against Jews and 7th Day Adventists. Contrary to what you may hear from some hysterics, we are not against religious exemptions, but we are for ensuring that the process works and that people who truly have a religious reason for not being able to vote on a Saturday can get an exemption and thus not be disenfranchised.