In a year of heated arguments over pandemic, race relations and electoral politics, campaign seeks to bring human dignity back to debate

LANSING — Tomorrow is primary day in Michigan, when voters select candidates on partisan ballots to appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.

Besides the candidates and proposals, voters have a lot to think about this year. Many voters are submitting absentee ballots through the mail or in person at their local clerk’s office, while others consider safety precautions when they visit the polls in person.

But the state’s Catholic leaders are asking voters to remember one more thing this election season: their dignity.

In a year of strife in the midst of a pandemic, economic anxiety, heightened racial tensions and a debate over police-community relations, the Michigan Catholic Conference is encouraging voters to remember that while the debates might be passionate, they don’t need to be nasty.

That’s why the conference is promoting the nonpartisan “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate” campaign, which “encourages Catholics and others to go through this 2020 election season in a way that recognizes the human dignity of other persons,” said Dave Maluchnik, vice president of communications for the Michigan Catholic Conference. 

The campaign is a project of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that seeks to encourage participation in the political process without resorting to divisive personal attacks.

“We are called to bring the best of ourselves and our faith to the public square — and yet today, many shy away from such involvement because our national and local conversations are filled with vitriol and harsh language, often directed at people themselves,” according to the campaign’s website, CivilizeIt.org

The campaign invites people to take a three-part “pledge” to model civility, clarity and compassion during the election season, Maluchnik said.

People can visit the “Civilize It” page on the Michigan Catholic Conference’s website to take the pledge and receive resources from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on promoting respectful civic dialogue and engagement.

“With everything that has been taking place in the last few months, from the virus to protests against police brutality, it has led to a certain amount of pent-up frustration going into this election season,” Maluchnik said. “The effort calls for people to participate in the democratic process in a way that seeks to have dialogue through a spirit of peace and healthy conversation.”

Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, along with five of the other six diocesan bishops in Michigan, are participating in the campaign by recording a video of themselves taking the pledge, and those videos will be combined with videos of lay faithful doing the same, Maluchnik said.

Maluchnik said the conference plans to release the videos throughout the election season as part of its “Faithful Citizenship” guide, which highlights elements of Catholic teaching people should consider before voting.

“We want to set a tone and show leadership in what is likely to be a very acrimonious election season,” Maluchnik said. “We are very grateful for the participation of the bishops and their interest in helping set the tone for the months leading up to the general election in November.”

To learn more about the “Civilize It” campaign and to take the pledge, visit www.CivilizeIt.org.