In a show of faithful citizenship and with the endorsement of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), the Pennsylvania State Council of the Knights of Columbus has urged the various local councils throughout the state to conduct nonpartisan voter registration drives in the parishes this month.

Under the agreed upon terms, the Knights may not mention specific parties, candidates or issues; they are just signing up new voters or voters changing their registration.

It is up to the individual to vote his or her conscience. In every case the Knights are doing the registration drive only with the specific consent of the pastor.

“I think it is very important for all of us if we are going to be good Christians to be good citizens and the first step in the life of a good citizen is to register to vote,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is chairman of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference. “Voting is a hugely importantly issue for the future of our country, so I am grateful to the Knights for organizing these voter registration drives. I hope people will cooperate and not just register, but more importantly, vote.”

In South Philadelphia, Desoto Council 315 set up a table outside St. Richard Church, so churchgoers or even passersby could stop and fill out a registration form or take one home to mail later.

“I think this is necessary and a good thing to make this available,” said DeSoto Grand Knight Lou Campione. “It makes people more aware of the issues and vote.”

In North Philadelphia, Ray Hill, who is the district deputy for local councils, left voter registration forms in the back of churches with the pastors’ permission. Returning later, he did notice a fair number were picked up. “You have to have a voice,” he said. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice.”

Amy Hill, communication director for the Harrisburg-based PCC, agreed Catholics should register to vote so they can lend their voices to the debate about how the United States should be governed.

“Every person and association has a right and duty to participate actively in shaping society and to promote the well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable,” she said.

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Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and member of St. Leo Parish, Philadelphia.