Church leaders call for Home Depot boycott over Georgia voting curbs
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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The logo of Home Depot is seen in Encinitas, California April 4, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake
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By Hilary Russ and Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Black religious leaders in Georgia representing more than 1,000 churches called on Tuesday for a boycott of Home Depot Inc, accusing the home improvement giant of failing to take a stand against the state's new Republican-backed curbs on voting.
In a statement, Bishop Reginald Jackson, who oversees Georgia's African Methodist Episcopal churches, said Home Depot had rejected requests to discuss the new law.
Other Georgia-based corporations - including Delta Air Lines Inc and Coca-Cola Co - have sat down with activists and issued statements opposing the voting restrictions. Coca-Cola also hosted a meeting of several companies on April 13 with faith leaders.
"If you as corporate leaders do not believe and lack the courage to speak out against this legislation, we will not spend our money to purchase your products," Jackson said.
The Georgia legislation imposed new requirements for absentee ballots, restricted drop boxes and barred people from offering food and water to voters waiting in line.
Republican lawmakers in numerous states have used former President Donald Trump's false claims of voter fraud to back state-level voting changes they say are needed to restore election integrity. Opponents say the laws disproportionately harm minority voters.
Home Depot said on Tuesday it believes "all elections should be accessible, fair and secure and support broad voter participation" and that it would "continue to work to ensure our associates in Georgia and across the country have the information and resources to vote."
It also said it ran its own initiatives, including registering more than 15,000 of its associates to vote.
More than 100 U.S. companies, including Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Ford Motor Co and Starbucks Corp, have declared their opposition to new voting limits. Major League Baseball pulled its All-Star Game from Atlanta, citing Georgia's legislation.
Republican Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday defended the law, telling reporters it will make balloting more secure while expanding weekend early voting.
"This insanity needs to stop," he said. "It's time that hardworking Georgians know that instead of boycotting great companies like HD, we should be supporting them."
At a news conference to announce the campaign, several pastors warned that the boycott would escalate if Home Depot did not forcefully denounce the law.
"This is not a Democratic or a Republican issue; this is a moral issue," said Jamal Harrison Bryant of the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. "We are telling Home Depot: It is always the right time to do the right thing."
(Reporting by Hilary Russ in New York and Joseph Ax in Princeton, New Jersey; Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Alistair Bell and Dan Grebler)
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