Florida faith leaders have come out in support of a state constitutional amendment that would give former felons a second chance. Those in support include a church in Southwest Florida.
The Bible is rooted in redemption. There’s the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, of course, but there’s a series of imperfect protagonists before his sacrifice – ones who already asked and received mercy from God.
“Every person has that opportunity," Chad Woolf said. "Nobody is beyond the point of being saved or being able to be redeemed.”
Woolf is the lead pastor of Christ Community Church in Fort Myers. He says scripture is clear that forgiveness is for everyone, which is why he’s supporting Amendment 4.
“They’ve paid their debt to society," Woolf said. "They’re not murderers or sex offenders, which are excluded in this amendment. They’re people who have done what they’ve been asked to do, and they should be allowed to fully reenter society.”
If passed, Amendment 4 would restore voting rights to 1.4 million former felons in Florida. That’s twelve times more than the margin of votes between President Trump and Hillary Clinton in the state during the 2016 presidential election.
Woolf said he has seen the impact on a few of those Floridians himself.
“I have been personal friends with people who, through poor choices that they made, have been convicted of felonies, and there’s a lot of shame involved in that," Woolf said. "Nobody wants to have that hanging over them, and I think that we would all agree that we want people to reenter their communities as full participants — not have something hanging over them that might cause them to withdraw or even commit future crimes.”
Before forgiveness, there is often guilt, so while the Bible is a redemption story, it’s often one of shame too. In Psalms, King David writes, “Let me not be put to shame, Lord.”
Woolf said, that’s the same plea of those without rights now in Florida.