Georgia Faith Leaders Leave Bottled Water at Capitol, Remind Lawmakers to 'Love Your Neighbor'

Georgia lawmakers were confronted Wednesday with another protest against their new voting law.

The action, led by Christian and Jewish religious leaders and representatives from the clergy-led civil rights group Faith in Public Life, highlighted one of the legislation's more controversial measures: bottled water.

Cases of water were stacked inside the Capitol as faith leaders took turns criticizing SB 202—which was signed by Governor Brian Kemp last week after passage in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The law makes many changes to voting in Georgia, including requiring more voter identification to cast an absentee ballot and limiting ballot drop boxes. It also makes it a crime for anyone other than a poll worker to hand out food or drink to people waiting in long lines to cast their ballots.

Speaking at a podium made of bottled water cases, protesters voiced their concerns with the new law after handing out the beverage to lawmakers on their final day of the legislative session.

"This is about more than just one bottle of water," said Graham Younger, the Georgia director of Faith in Public Life. "It's about a series of laws that are progressively making it harder for Georgians to participate in our democracy."

Shavonne Williams, the organizing ambassador with Faith in Public Life, said the measures passed by legislators and signed by the governor "go against the very word" of God.

"We're bringing water today to speak out against the Georgia legislators and Governor Kemp, whose acts don't follow the basic tenets of my faith to love your neighbor," Williams said.

Sister organization Faith in Public Life Action posted a video on Twitter in which Georgia state Senator and Episcopal priest Kim Jackson thanked the faith leaders for bringing them water, something she said "should be pretty simple, something you should be able to give voters who stand in line."

“We gather here today to protest a law that prohibits us from giving a drink water to someone who is thirsty while standing in a long voting line." –Rev. Tom Hagood

Faith leaders from across Georgia gathered at the state capitol to distribute water to legislators.

— Faith in Public Life Action (@FPLaction) April 1, 2021

Democrats and voting rights advocates argue the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. Legal challenges to the measure began hours after Kemp signed it. One lawsuit, which is backed by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP, said the law is the "culmination of a concerted effort" to suppress voters of color after Republican losses in the November presidential election and the two Senate runoff elections in January.

But the bill is just one in a wave of GOP-backed measures introduced around the country following former President Donald Trump's unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud and election irregularities. President Joe Biden called such Republican efforts "un-American" and "sick" during his first solo news conference last week.

Republicans in Georgia have claimed the legislation is needed to boost election security and public trust in Georgia's elections. While Trump baselessly claimed he lost the Peach State because of fraud, election officials have repeatedly said that was not the case.

"After the November election last year, I knew, like so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed," said Kemp.

Newsweek reached out to Faith in Public Life for additional comment on Wednesday's protest but didn't receive a response in time for publication.

georgia polling station early voting december 2020
Voters line up for the first day of early voting outside of the High Museum polling station in Atlanta on December 14, 2020. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images