Communities of Faith Initiative

June 3, 2015

logoReligious leaders who believe that the principles of inclusion and forgiveness are critical for strong communities have begun to join the movement to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions.

In 2005, the Brennan Center filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of religious leaders in Alabama in Gooden v Worley, a case challenging Alabama’s Secretary of State’s disenfranchising policies. United in their belief that felony disenfranchisement offends basic Christian principles, these leaders urged the Alabama Supreme Court to consider the case and affirm a favorable trial court decision.

In 2008, the Brennan Center convened a group of religious leaders to discuss the movement to restore voting rights to people with criminal convictions. Learn more about the event here.

Since the event, the Brennan Center has formed a Communities of Faith Advisory Council Members of the advisory council have also written about this issue. Learn more here

Back to Restoring Voting Rights


Communities of Faith Advisory Council

In an ongoing effort to build support, the Brennan Center recently created the Communities of Faith Advisory Council. Similar to the Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Advisory Council, the Communities of Faith Advisory Council was formed to make sure the Brennan Center's work is informed by the views of our faith allies. The members of the Advisory Council serve as a liaison between the Brennan Center and national church bodies, clergy, and faith-based organization and provide a valuable voice on the behalf of the religious and faith community.

Current members include:

Lucreda Cobbs
Catholic Charities USA

Jesse Epp-Fransen
Mennonite Central Committee

Bill Kleiber
Restorative Justice Ministries Network of North America

Rev. Jayne Oasin
Social Justice Ministries of the Episcopal Church

Brian A. Rusche
Joint Religious Legislative Coalition of Minnesota

Dr. David Schuringa
Crossroads Bible Institute

Rev. Alexander Sharp
Protestants for the Common Good

Dr. Karen Swanson
Billy Graham Institute of Prison Ministries

Rev. Dr. Gilberto Velez
National Hispanic Leadership Conference

Faith-Based Convening

On October 23, 2008 the Brennan Center held a one day event for religious leaders to come together to share thoughts, ideas, and inspiration about the movement to restore voting rights.  Drawing particularly from the widely held religious principles of forgiveness, mercy, restoration, and reconciliation, the Convening sparked compelling discussions on how the religious community can be involved in the campaign to restore voting rights to people after criminal conviction. Click here to download the agenda.

Pastor Lewis M.Anthony
Metropolitan Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Dr. Carroll Baltimore
Senior VP and Pastor, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Incorporated

Rev. Paul Benz
Director, Lutheran Public Policy Office of Washington State

Walter Boyd
Director, Ex-Offender Opportunities Program, Protestants for the Common Good

Lucreda Cobbs
Senior Director, Advocacy and Civic Engagement, Catholic Charities

Rev. Bruce Davidson
Director, Lutheran Office of Gov't Ministry in New Jersey

Father Pat Delahanty
Interm Director, Catholic Conference of Kentucky

Elizabeth Denligner
Deputy Director for Policy and Organizing, Sojourners

Imam Makram Nu’Man El-Amin
Resident Imam, Masjid An-Nur in Minnesota

Rev. Roosevelt Ewell
Parliamentarian / National Volunteer Coordinator. National Alliance of Faith and Justice

Robert Francis
Director of Domestic Policy, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

Rev. Jimmie James
Executive Director, H.O.P.E. (Holistic Opportunities for Personal Empowerment)

Verlene Jones
Secretary and Past President of the Church Council of Greater Seattle

Dr. Bret Kincaid
Public Policy Editor, Evangelicals for Social Action

Bill Kleiber
Restorative Justice Ministries Network of North America

Rabbi Aaron Lipskar
Executive Director, Aleph, an organization for Jewish Renewal

Jody McCardle
Network Coordinator, Joint Religious Legislative Coalition

Pat Nolan
Vice President , Prison Fellowship

Rev. Jayne Oasin
Program Officer, Peace and Justice Ministries of the Episcopal Church

Wesley Pattillo
Senior Program Director of Justice and Advocacy, National Council of Churches USA

Rev. Mark Peters
Executive Director, Lutheran Coalition for Public Policy in Minnesota

Tom Schellabarger
Domestic Policy Advisor, U.S Catholic Conference of Bishops

Gabe Schlabach
Legislative Assistant, Mennonite Central Committee

Rev. Alexander Sharp
Executive Director, Protestants for the Common Good

Dr. Karen Swanson
President, Billy Graham Center- Institute of Prison Ministries

Dr. Gilberto Valez
Chairman of Board, National Hispanic Leadership Conference, and Pastor, Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia

Rev. Dr. Rolen Lewis Womack
Chair, African American Ministers Leadership Council and founding pastor, Progressive Baptist Church in Milwaukee, WI

Advocacy by the Religious Community

Two participants from the Brennan Center Faith Convening have published compelling articles on this issue. Dr. Bret Kincaid from Evangelicals for Social Action wrote an article explaining how disenfranchising 4 million Americans weakens our democracy.Poverty Forum Gabriel Schlabach from the Mennonite Central Committee published a piece in the Mennonite Weekly Review about the importance of forgiveness and second chances.

In February 2009, The Washington Post reported that the Poverty Forum, a new coalition of Christian leaders and policy experts from across the ideological spectrum, made a series of important recommendations aimed at addressing poverty and calling attention to the individuals and families most marginalized in our society. Notably, the group recommended that Congress pass the Democracy Restoration Act.