Latino evangelical coalition highlights issues in U.S. election

By Jim DeLa
Posted Jan 10, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] A group of Latino evangelical churches in the United States have begun a voter registration drive intended to send a message to candidates that they ignore Latino interests at their peril.

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition kicked off its six-state “Nuestro Futuro” campaign on Jan. 10 in Orlando, Florida, with a news conference, and an evening rally and registration effort at Iglesia El Calvario, a local church.

After Florida, an important swing state with a large Latino population, the group will launch its next rally 8 February in Ohio; and then on to Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York and New Jersey. Along with registering as many of the 10 to 11 million eligible Latino voters in the U.S. as it can, the coalition said it will raise awareness on three main issues: poverty, comprehensive immigration reform and education equality.

The Rev. Peter Vivaldi, the coalition’s Central Florida coordinator, made it clear the coalition will not endorse any particular candidate or party. But he had a message for them all. “Hispanic evangelicals have a national agenda that must be heard,” he said.

“Latinos are going to vote — we’re not going to stay home. And we’re going to vote our conscience and we’re going to vote around these three issues,” he said.

Vivaldi said churches, including the Church of the Nazarene, Church of Christ and the Assemblies of God, as well as many Christian colleges around the country, are involved in the effort.

Melanie Santiago, the director of young adult ministries in the Southeastern Spanish District of the Assembly of God Church, said the effort is particularly attractive to younger evangelicals. “I believe our young people are getting ready to dive into biblical justice. They’re ready to go outside the four walls of the church and do whatever it takes to grow in Christ and do what Christ calls us to do.”

The Coalition is pushing heavily for passage of the DREAM act, a bipartisan bill before Congress that would make qualifying undocumented youth eligible for a six-year-long conditional path to citizenship requiring the completion of a college degree or two years of military service.