PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Fort Myers Pastor Supports Voting Rights Restoration

Christ Community Church
Sunday service at Christ Community Church in Fort Myers

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 Churchin 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.

Rachel Iacovone is a reporter and associate producer of Gulf Coast Live for WGCU News. Rachel came to WGCU as an intern in 2016, during the presidential race. She went on to cover Florida Gulf Coast University students at President Donald Trump's inauguration on Capitol Hill and Southwest Floridians in attendance at the following day's Women's March on Washington.Rachel was first contacted by WGCU when she was managing editor of FGCU's student-run media group, Eagle News. She helped take Eagle News from a weekly newspaper to a daily online publication with TV and radio branches within two years, winning the 2016 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Award for Best Use of Multimedia in a cross-platform series she led for National Coming Out Day. She also won the Mark of Excellence Award for Feature Writing for her five-month coverage of an FGCU student's transition from male to female.As a WGCU reporter, she produced the first radio story in WGCU's Curious Gulf Coast project, which answered the question: Does SWFL Have More Cases of Pediatric Cancer?Rachel graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.