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Interfaith America announces ‘Vote is Sacred’ thought leaders

Interfaith America

Interfaith America has launched a multi-year, national nonpartisan civic engagement initiative called Vote is Sacred. Vote is Sacred will activate the social capital of higher education and faith communities to underscore the centrality of the vote in a religiously diverse democracy. A key component of this program is the creation of an advisory group that will help provide the intellectual framework for the program.

Interfaith America is pleased to announce the inaugural Vote is Sacred Thought Leaders Organizing Committee. This is a diverse group of interfaith and civic thought leaders who will help frame our goals, identify voter and issue education, and sustain momentum before, during, and after traditional election seasons. Their expertise will elevate the national understanding of the sacredness of the vote from a wide spectrum of worldviews and will increase awareness about the relationship between faith commitments and key ballot issues, voter suppression, and civic duty. This committee will accomplish the following:

  • Create lasting relationships between participants that will have influence beyond this project.
  • Articulate the sacredness of civic engagement, especially voting, and how it is critical for the promise of a religiously diverse democracy. 
  • Model interfaith engagement and invite others in by identifying opportunities to integrate interfaith cooperation into their existing activities and priorities.
  • Strengthen Interfaith America’s presence and in the broader ecosystem of democracy and civic engagement. 

We are honored to introduce the 2022-23 Vote is Sacred Thought Leaders:

The Honorable Ravi S. Bhalla was elected Hoboken’s 39th Mayor on November 7, 2017. Born and raised in New Jersey, Mayor Bhalla is an 18-year resident of Hoboken and 8-year member of the Hoboken City Council. Mayor Bhalla received his undergraduate education from the University of California at Berkeley, where he received a B.A. in Political Psychology. Upon graduation, he attended the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom and received a Master of Science degree in Public Administration and Public Policy, followed by a Juris Doctor Degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mayor Bhalla lives in Hoboken with his wife and their two children.

Rev. Dr. Ka’thy Gore Chappell is the Executive Director Baptist Women in Ministry of North Carolina. Originally from Alabama, Rev. Chappell is a graduate of Auburn University (Bachelor of Science), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Master of Religious Education) and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry). Prior to serving at Baptist Women in Ministry, Chappell worked in denominational ministry as Leadership Development Coordinator with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina; in theological education as Associate Dean of Students at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond; and in congregational ministry in North Carolina at First Baptist Church, Asheville, First Baptist Church, Cary, and Forest Hills Baptist Church, Raleigh. Rev. Chappell is an ordained Baptist minister and was ordained by First Baptist, Cary, in 1979.

Chris Crawford is a policy advocate at Protect Democracy. He previously worked as a senior program associate at Democracy Fund, where he managed a portfolio of faith-based initiatives focused on promoting pluralism in the United States. Crawford began his career doing political organizing at Susan B. Anthony List, the nation’s largest pro-life political organization. He is a graduate of The George Washington University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit administration from The University of Notre Dame. 

Rev. Devon Jerome Crawford brings academic and organizing rigor to a career focused on catalyzing systemic change. A licensed minister and non-violent activist, Devon provided public leadership in the cases of Troy Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown. He is the Staff Director of the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at the Harvard Kennedy School Center for Public Leadership. Early in his career, Rev. Crawford served as the inaugural Humanity in Action Fellow for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rev. Crawford is an honors graduate of Morehouse College and completed graduate studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School. 

Imam Makram El-Amin’s commitment to service and civic leadership has made him a pillar in the Minneapolis community. For more than two decades, his work as a religious and community leader has been firmly rooted in the principle of our inherent human dignity. In addition to his weekly teaching duties, Imam El-Amin leads Al-Maa’uun (Neighborly Needs) Community Outreach Services that addresses food insecurity, affordable housing, career services, and mentoring. A student of the late religious leader and scholar Imam W. Deen Mohammed, his thoughtful and moderate approach to Islam has afforded Imam El-Amin opportunities to share the stage with Bishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. He was a delegate to a historic interfaith event in Rome with Pope John Paul II and member of an interfaith clergy delegation to the Holy Land.

As advisor to Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress and current Minnesota Attorney General, Imam El-Amin has counseled Ellison on religious issues and accompanied him on international trade trips. In 2007, the New York Times tagged him the “congressman’s imam” and an emerging voice for religious tolerance and Muslim participation in the public square.

Rabbi Hannah Goldstein has been at Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C. since 2013, when she was ordained at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. She teaches, preaches and oversees Temple Sinai’s adult education programs. She is also coordinating Temple Sinai’s newly launched David Center for Social Justice, which serves as the umbrella for all of Temple Sinai’s social justice work, including voter engagement, refugee resettlement, environmental advocacy and work on reproductive rights and health. She also works with the Multiracial Sinai Committee to ensure that Temple Sinai is a welcoming and inclusive community to all. Rabbi Goldstein is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbi’s Peace and Justice Commission and the Union for Reform Judaism’s Commission on Social Action. She is also a member of the Washington, D.C., Mayor’s Interfaith Council.

Josh Good is the director of Ethics & Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum, which aims to strengthen reporting and commentary on how religious believers, religious convictions, and religiously grounded moral arguments affect American politics and public life. Before joining the center in 2018, Good served as a director for the Kern Family Foundation’s Faith, Work, and Economics Program and, prior to that, as manager of the Values & Capitalism Initiative—a special outreach program to Christian colleges—at the American Enterprise Institute. Good spent four years as a consultant at ICF International where he worked on responsible fatherhood and healthy marriage initiatives. He also worked on a national public-private partnership that strengthened collaborations between congregations and businesses to serve ex-prisoners, supported by the U.S. Department of Labor and two foundations.

Good holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Covenant College and a master’s degree in Christianity and Culture from Harvard University. His work has been published in National Review, The Hill, The Washington Times, The Federalist, World Magazine, The American, and Capital Commentary.

Rev. Dr. Cassandra Gould is from Demopolis, Alabama, 47 miles west of Selma, where her mother, the late Carrie Thelma Jefferson, fought for voter rights and was injured and arrested on the Edmond Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday. Her family moved to St. Louis when she was a child. She is a proud alumna of St. Louis Public Schools. She most recently served for six and half years as the Executive Director of Missouri Faith Voices, the only statewide multi-faith grassroots organization in Missouri. Rev. Gould was the first Black Executive Director of Faith Voices; under her leadership the organization grew and is now home to over 120 congregations. Under her leadership at the intersection of politics, faith and justice, in 2018, the organization led the second largest voter engagement campaign in the state. Her focus on the political education, leadership, and mobilization of Black voters led to the historical election of St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, Missouri’s first Black county prosecutor; helped to ensure the passage of Medicaid expansion in 2020; and supported the election of the first Black woman mayor in St. Louis, Tishuara Jones.

Dani Levine is the Director of Social Impact at Hillel International. Levine was born and raised in Washington, D.C., and fell in love with the Jewish Social Justice community through Habonim Dror camps and programming. Levine has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Comparative American Studies from Oberlin College and received her Masters of Public Health in Environmental Health and Policy from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She spent a few years in San Francisco and then New Orleans in the environmental non-profit, consulting, and environmental policy world, before finally succumbing to that still small voice calling her to full-time Jewish Professional life. Prior to joining Hillel, she spent a decade with Avodah, first as the local New Orleans Director and ultimately as the National Program Director, responsible for overseeing all Avodah programming across multiple cities and programs. She has also had the privilege of being a member of the IOWA Project Ovdim leadership cohort, where she studies Musar, a Jewish spiritual practice that focuses on how to live a meaningful and ethical life, with other Jewish thinkers. Levine lives in New Orleans with her wife and three children.

Imam Mohamed Magid is the Executive Religious Director of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia. He is the Chairman of International Interfaith Peace Corps and the former President of the Islamic Society of North America. He serves on the advisory board of the Peaceful Families Project and as Co-President of Religions for Peace. He is also the Co-Founder of the Multifaith Neighborhood Network which focuses on building bridges between Muslim, Evangelical Christian, and Jewish communities. Imam Magid has co-authored two books: “Before You Tie the Knot: A Guide for Couples” and “Reflections on the Qur’an.” His areas of interest and focus are religious freedom, preventing violence against women, and preventing violence and hate in our societies. He has written for The Washington Post and HuffPost and has been featured in Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Imam Magid has received several awards including the El-Hibri Foundation’s Peace Education Prize in 2017. 

Dr. Dilara Sayeed serves as the Co-Founder of the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition. Originally from Chicago, she earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and marketing from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1991, her master’s in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne in 2012, and her doctorate in education leadership from Harvard University in 2015. Sayeed’s career experience includes working as an educator at Naperville Community Unit School, a special assistant for Chicago Public Schools, and a managing partner at vPeer.

Sadia Sindhu is the founding Executive Director of the University of Chicago Center for Effective Government. Sindhu is responsible for articulating the vision, setting strategy, fundraising, establishing partnerships, ensuring operational excellence, and engaging with key constituencies in the government reform space, including leading scholars and practitioners, and students. She has served in a variety of strategic roles in the public and private sectors and is a fellow of the second class of the Aspen Institute Civil Society Fellowship and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Additionally, she serves on the Research Advisory Council for the Partnership for Public Service. Sindhu holds a master’s degree in higher education policy from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree in international politics from Georgetown University.

Rev. Sandy Sorensen currently serves as Director of the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries, Washington, D.C. office. Rev. Sorensen has served in a variety of capacities in her over 30 years of experience in the national setting of the United Church of the Christ, including work in communications and policy advocacy on civil rights, justice for women, and media access. She received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Grinnell College and went on to earn her Master of Divinity degree from Yale University Divinity School in 1990. She has served as a past co-chair of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and currently serves on the board of the UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries. She is a co-chair of the Washington Interreligious Staff Community, a collaboration of nearly 70 interfaith faith-based policy advocacy organizations.


Alexis Vaughan
Interfaith America
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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