Because separation of church and state only applies to conservatives.

WASHINGTON — The Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson longs for the old days, when all it took was Sunday sermons by African-American ministers to fire up their flocks to get registered and vote in local, state and federal elections.

“In the past, all we had to do was encourage people to register,” said Richardson, the senior pastor of the Grace Baptist Church of Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Port St. Lucie, Fla., and the chair of the Conference of National Black Churches. “Now it’s a different animal.”

African-American churches, historically at the forefront of the nation’s civil and voting rights efforts, are grappling this election year with how to navigate through the wave of new voting-access laws approved in many Republican-controlled states, laws that many African-Americans believe were implemented to suppress the votes of minorities and others.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several hundred clergy leaders from the Conference of National Black Churches are scheduled to hold a summit Wednesday in Washington to discuss the new laws, their potential impact on African-American voters and how churches can educate parishioners, help them register and help get them to the polls on Election Day to prevent any significant drop-off from 2008.

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