Guest Columnist

Iowa faith leaders: Restore felon voting rights

Forgiveness, a central tenet and practice of our traditions, is key to restoring and renewing relationships.

Precinct 24 in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Precinct 24 in southeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

As people of faith, we cannot and will not be silent in the face of injustice. Rather, following in the footsteps of the faithful prophets and messengers who went before us, we join our diverse voices of faith together to demand justice as we call upon our elected representatives to remove the stain of injustice enshrined in the Constitution of the State of Iowa in the form of felony disenfranchisement. We urge our state leaders to restore voting eligibility to those among us who have been convicted of felonies. Removing a person’s voting eligibility for the entirety of their life degrades and ultimately denies their inherent dignity and worth, and Iowa must relinquish our position as the only state in the union that permanently strips, for life, people of their voting eligibility for a felony conviction.

Whereas the current policies of our state institute eternal punishment and estrangement, as people of faith, we strive to repair broken relationships through restoration and renewal. Forgiveness, a central tenet and practice of our traditions, is key to restoring and renewing relationships. Offering abundant forgiveness to those who have been convicted of a felony opens the opportunity for restored relationship for the benefit of all.

Voting is the beating heart of a living democracy. Voting is also the most basic access point for individuals to participate in public dialogue and have a voice in the public policy decision- making process, which shapes the future of our collective life. Our diverse traditions challenge us to establish justice, and justice cannot be achieved unless the rules for governing our democratic processes are fair and equitable to all. For the sake of justice and mercy, for the sake of our communities, for the sake of our democracy, our elected officials must amend our state’s constitution to end felony disenfranchisement and create a more equitable system that treats our residents with felony convictions with the dignity and respect due them as Iowans.

Connie Ryan is executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa and submitted this column co-signed by 84 faith leaders from across Iowa, including Rev. Monica L. Banks, New Disciples Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Cedar Rapids; Rev. Linda Butler, United Methodist Church, Cedar Rapids; Rev. Jim Davis, United Methodist Church, Cedar Rapids; Rev. Bill Daylong, United Methodist Church (retired), Cedar Rapids; Rev. Robert (Bob) Loffer, Faith United Church of Christ, Iowa City; Rev. Scott Meador, Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, Cedar Rapids; and Rev. Gary W. Sneller, Disciples of Christ (retired), Cedar Rapids.

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