Anti-abortion groups in Arkansas, Florida, Nebraska and South Dakota are using a similar approach. The Nebraska Catholic Conference, for example, is urging its members to not only refuse to sign but also to hamper canvassers’ efforts to get signatures from others.
“If you encounter petitioners, charitably take up their time talking about the dangerous petition, to prevent other people from engaging and signing,” the group’s executive director, Tom Venzor, advised [Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly, “Conservatives Move to Keep Abortion Off the 2024 Ballot,” Politico, 2023.12.18].
There is nothing charitable about taking up the time of people who don’t want to talk to you. There is nothing charitable about interfering with other people’s efforts to have conversations about things you don’t like. The tactic advocated by the Catholic above and practiced by petition blockers is the opposite of both Christian and civil behavior. It is the opposite of what good petitioners do: whenever I’ve collected signatures on a petition, I’ve made clear my intentions in my first few words: “Hello, would you like to sign a petition for xyz?” If the people I address indicate an interest in signing or at least hearing about the petition, I speak with them further. If the people I address make clear they are not interesting in signing or hearing more, I stand back and let those people get on with their desired activities.
If petitioners behaved the way Tom Venzor and Jon Hansen’s petition blockers are behaving, they’d destroy their reputations and their movements. Venzor and Hansen’s uncharitable, un-Christian behavior reflect poorly on their organizations, which are supposed to exemplify Christian charitability.