Friday, August 04, 2006

Religious Folks Can Be So Intimidating

Hey, just in case you're not getting your fill of local Montgomery County political blogs... Sprawling Towards Montgomery made its debut a couple days ago. Slacker's been quite prolific thus far, but I have to take issue with something he/she posted last night in a piece called They're Not Fascists, They're My Neighbors:
The group that really disturbs me is Action In Montgomery - a troubling blend of religion and political activism that intimidates elected officials through events called "actions". At these actions, attended by 800-1000 of the faithful, politicians are commanded to rise and answer "yes or no" whether they support AIMs agenda.

By the way, the most recent item on AIMs agenda is free college tuition for any kid earning a C+ or greater. (I'll reserve judgment on this one until I see how my kids do on their PSATs.)
Here's my response, which I posted in the comment thread:
AIM is a broad-based, nonpartisan coalition of congregations that represent over 30,000 county residents. It's primary focus is the teaching of leadership and other skills necessary for those residents to effectively engage in the political process.

I suppose some may find the idea of 30,000 well-organized people to be intimidating, but I'd call it democracy in action.

And, FYI, the "College Bound" program you mention is just one plank of AIM's agenda for this year. The general idea, as I understand it, is to create a public-private partnership that provides a mechanism for funding the tuition costs of students in financial need. The money for such a fund is expected to be raised primarily from private sources.

Political power comes in two basic forms - organized money and organized people. It's about time some people are stepping up to the plate and making their voices heard over the din of lobbyists, pollsters and their moneyed interests. Props to AIM for doing its part!
People of faith have just as much right to participate in the political process as anyone else. Really, it's not about intimidation, it's about power - the ability to act and get things done.

Oh, and full disclosure here - I am a former Co-Chair of AIM, which is the Montgomery County affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation.

Originally posted on Political Yak.


Blogger Bruce Godfrey said...

No politician has to attend such an event and, presumably, would be free to engage AIM to modify its policies no less or more than anyone else. A savvy political leader would view AIM not as a threat but as an opportunity to engage citizens early on to develop a broad civil consensus.

From what I see of AIM, they (you, as it were) do not seem malignant or theocratic; they look like an interfaith civic group. Given the diversity of their congregations, I would not expect them to do a whole lot that is too controversial, lest the coalition break up. If AIM were petitioning the government to marginalize non-religious people - which some churches do, sadly - then my view would be a bit different perhaps.

8/04/2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Russ said...

Bruce, you are correct. AIM actually encourages officials to engage in a dialogue with the organization regarding its issues, and even invites them to give input before the issues are publicly announced.

And you are correct with regard to AIM working as a collective through consensus. Every item on AIM's issue agenda was created and vetted through dozens of meetings involving hundreds and hundreds of people before it was finally adopted by the organization.

And the group certainly does not try to marginalize non-religious people. AIM actively tries to increase overall community participation in the political process. That being said, AIM is an organization of faith congregations and its actions and meetings reflect that (there are clergy present, there's usually an opening and closing prayer, etc).

8/04/2006 03:50:00 PM  
Blogger Russ said...

BTW, I've posted a follow-up on my site.

8/04/2006 03:52:00 PM  

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