Desecrating Their Memory

  Pollsters tell us that over half of all eligible men and women won't even bother to vote in next Tuesday's election. That is a shameful statistic. The freedom to vote was dearly bought by our Founders -- men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to obtain it. Maybe the non-voting Americans have become so accustomed to their freedoms that they've begun to take them for granted. Well, they wouldn't if they'd ever lost them. Believe me -- I know. I never appreciated freedom so much as I did after I lost it -- when, twenty-five years ago I went to prison for a Watergate-related offense. Every day since my release I have thanked God for being free. I also know what it's like to lose my civil rights. Since my release from prison, I've lived in Virginia and Florida. In both states, felons forever lose their right to vote, unless the governor restores it through a clemency process. Oh how I missed that chance to vote over the years! But just three weeks ago, I completed that process in Florida, and, as you may have read in the press, Gov. Jeb Bush restored my civil liberties. Next week, I will proudly cast my first ballot in twenty-eight years. Friends asked me why I waited so long to petition for the restoration of my civil rights. The answer is that I declined as an act of conscience. I believe it's wrong that the law doesn't automatically restore the civil liberties of an ex-felon once he's paid his debt to society. I hoped that if I did not apply for clemency, I'd be making a statement that would result in the law being changed. Well, sadly, that did not happen. So, after all these years, I felt I'd waited long enough. But my conscience was still troubled. Then, last week, a man came up to me in church. He said he had read about my right to vote being restored. And he told me, "When I was a young man, I was sent to prison for drug offenses. In the twenty years since my release, I've been a model citizen. But that felony conviction meant that I lost my right to vote forever." Then he asked me, "Do you have to know the governor to get your right to vote back?" "No," I said, and I explained how a simple process of applying for clemency would do it. The man went away jubilant. Well, maybe this was God's way of telling me I was right to seek to regain my vote -- that I might encourage other ex-convicts to obtain theirs. It's a right they deserve to have. So, if you're an ex-offender, call us here at BreakPoint, and we'll send you information about how to restore your right to vote in your own state. But for the rest of you: Please don't for one moment take for granted your right to vote. It was paid for by the millions who fought and died to protect our freedoms -- from our Founders, 200 years ago, right down to the sailors who died just a few weeks ago aboard the U.S.S. Cole. Failing to exercise this right is the failure to do your duty. It is the height of ingratitude.


Chuck Colson



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