Seeking to bring attention to what it calls the "voter restriction amendment," the Minnesota Council of Churches announced its opposition to a state constitutional amendment that would require voters show photo identification at the polls.
The amendment, said Rev. Peg Chemberlin, the Council's Executive Director, has fallen too far out of the public eye.
"We encourage and want a vigorous debate and conversation in the next few weeks on this amendment," Chemberlin said. "In fact, I hope there's some pushback. I hope people ask 'What's going on? Why have you taken this position?'"
In a written statement, the Council's President, St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Bishop Peter Rogness said “the fundamental issue that brings us here is our concern for those for whom this step – which seems easy for most in the mainstream – becomes a barrier to participating in the shaping of our public life together.”
It was an issue of “defending the right of the last, lost and least to vote and therefore oppose the amendment," he added.
The Council's decision is not binding on member denominations, Chemberlin said. Instead, the decision by the Council's board was a matter of denominations "calling on each other to encourage this vigorous debate at the local level."
A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA, which represents much of the western Twin Cities, said that many of the synod's churches were intensely focused on defeating the state's marriage amendment, and the synod would not likely be organizing them to engage in the Voter ID issue.
Chaz Ruzak of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area said his denominations offices has provided local churches with many neutral voter education resources, but hadn't taken a stand on the issue.
As of publication time, representatives of other denominations in the Minnesota Council of Churches couldn't be reached for comment.
Many religious and religious-based organizations have declared their opposition to the Voter ID amendment, including Catholic Charities, Lutheran Social Services, First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis, and liberal groups ISAIAH and Jewish Community Action.