Blog|Social Justice Working Group
The campaign to eliminate the legal underpinnings of unfree labor gained momentum in the 2022 midterms. Voters in Alabama, Oregon, Tennessee, and Vermont repealed language in their state constitutions that allowed slavery and involuntary servitude to persist in state correctional facilities long after being abolished in every other setting. The votes underscored the importance when drafting these initiatives to take into account the electorate’s questions and concerns as well as their hopes and aspirations.
The Tennessee measure expressly states that eliminating involuntary servitude will not prohibit a duly-convicted inmate from working. The Oregon measure allows court-ordered education, counseling, treatment, community service, or other alternatives to incarceration. An involuntary servitude initiative in Louisiana was defeated after the sponsor called on voters not to adopt the measure because of ambiguous wording. He promised a revised version next year. With a track record of success dating back to Colorado (2018), Nebraska (2020), and Utah (2020), we can look forward to ballot initiatives to stop forced labor wherever it exists being introduced in other states, including California, in upcoming election cycles.
We celebrate the actions of voters in these states while remembering at the same time that social justice is more than political activism. Whether we are drawn toward the policy sphere, called to join one of the cathedral’s social service programs and events, or serving the greater good in the wider world by other means, we are all actors in Christ’s great ministry of justice.