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Communities of Faith Initiative

Religious 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.

Published: 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.