WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas church leaders are speaking out against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for a statement he made this week during a radio interview suggesting no legitimate churches are opposed to the state’s voter photo identification law.
The Kansas Legislature passed a law in 2012, at Kobach’s urging, requiring voters in the state to provide a photo ID at the polls, The Wichita Eagle reported. Critics said the measure disenfranchises the elderly, minorities and the poor, who may have a hard time getting a photo ID.
When asked during an interview on a Topeka radio station Monday whether he had considered easing up on the ID law after it came under fire from some churches, Kobach responded that he doesn’t know of any church that opposes voter ID.
“I don’t know which churches — and I’d put ‘churches’ in quotation marks — because the vast majority of church leaders I’ve spoken to are fully in favor of our voter ID law,” he said.
Leaders of black churches in Wichita fired back that Kobach obviously hasn’t met with any of their congregations.
“He’s wrong to say that,” said Carieta Cain Grizzel, pastor at Grant Chapel African-American Episcopal Church in Wichita. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”
At a news conference in June, Grizzel described Kansas voter laws as “Jim Crow-ism.” On Thursday, she said she was speaking for herself, her church and the African Methodist Episcopal denomination as a whole when she made that statement.
“We object to the voter ID laws in all of the states,” she said.
Kobach told The Eagle on Thursday his comment was referring to individual pastors speaking for themselves and not their churches.
“If one individual who may incidentally be a pastor of a church disagrees with me,” Kobach said, “I don’t think that means the, quote, church disagrees with me.
“One individual does not make a church. Individuals have their opinions, but I don’t know of any church that opposes voter ID.”
Wade Moore, pastor at Wichita’s Christian Faith Centre, said Kobach “definitely hasn’t talked to any African-American churches.”
Kobach’s comments come at the heels of complaints by the Greater Wichita Ministerial League that Assistant Secretary of State Eric Rucker was rude and disrespectful at a July 10 meeting, a claim that Rucker denied.
“We tried to get Kobach’s assistant to explain the voter ID to the church,” said Moore, who is president of the Ministerial League, “but we couldn’t get anywhere with it.”