Pray with Your Vote

Pray with Your Vote

November 05, 2022

At the 2022 Iowa Annual Conference Session, Gun Violence Resolution #704 was passed. The resolution asks Iowa United Methodists to “oppose and vote to defeat the ‘Iowa Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” amendment.’” Then in August, the Council of Bishops unanimously affirmed a statement addressing gun violence. To stop the gun violence epidemic in the U.S. and around the globe, bishops are urging United Methodists to raise their prayers to God and contact their elected leaders. This is the third in a series to speak to the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church and specifically gun violence. Read previous articles in the series here.

Submitted by Rita Carter, Aldersgate United Methodist, Urbandale

Jesus said this in Matthew 7:15: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” And we have a wolf in sheep’s clothing voting issue on our November 8th ballot that would add a Gun Amendment to our Iowa Constitution. At first glance, the wording is somewhat like our U.S. Second Amendment about the right to “keep and bear arms.” Still, there are other words that make all the difference, particularly “fundamental right” with “any and all restrictions . . . subject to strict scrutiny.” This language does not simply mean that any challenges to existing or future gun laws would be looked at very strictly, but instead, “strict scrutiny” is a legal term involving courts and the judicial process—and that means gun rights would be the standard against all other challenges would be measured. I know that there are hunters in our congregations, but safe schools, safety in homes and public places, background checks on all gun purchases, banning assault weapons, weapons training requirements, banning carrying firearms while under the influence, and responsible gun laws are all concerns that most Iowans support. These would be subject to a different level of judgment than now if the Gun Amendment passes. 

A June resolution recalling our baptismal covenant “to accept the freedom and power of God to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves,” highlighting some mass shootings recent to that time (including one in Iowa) and noting the advocacy calls in the United Methodist Church’s Resolution #3428 was approved (439-234) by the 2022 Iowa Annual Conference “to oppose and defeat the ‘Iowa Right to Keep and Bear Arms Amendment.’ The amendment would recognize this as a fundamental right and would require any, and all restrictions to this right be subject to strict scrutiny.” Rev. Katie Dawson (Immanuel UMC, Des Moines) and others have written articles in our conference communications about the ballot measure and gun violence concerns. In case you’re wondering, houses of worship and nonprofits cannot support or oppose candidates in an election; they may support or oppose initiatives, referenda, and other measures that appear on the ballot and may lobby the public to support or oppose legislative proposals [Interfaith Alliance 2020 Vote Guide for Houses of Worship—most recent].

In September, the Council of Bishops issued “A Call to Prayer and Action in Response to Gun Violence,” signed by active and retired Bishops, including our own Bishop Laurie Haller, citing Exodus 1, “Thou shall not kill,” calling on “United Methodists to prayerfully address gun violence in their local context” [from Book of Resolution #3428], and “work with ecumenical and interfaith partners in our public witness.” I have been working with the Iowans for Responsible Gun Laws Coalition to educate about Iowa’s Gun Amendment ballot measure and urge that Iowans cast a NO vote.

There are 44 other states with gun amendments, but only 3 include “strict scrutiny” language—Louisiana, Alabama, and Missouri—and these three states are in the top 5 for U.S. gun death rates. It has been said that “a vote is a kind of prayer for the kind of world we desire for ourselves and for our children.” (Warnock/2021) I believe my faith intersects with all of my life, and I want a safer Iowa for our children. The ballot measure to add a Gun Amendment to the Iowa Constitution is not the Second Amendment, and its aim is to permanently loosen restrictions on guns and gun ownership in Iowa, which I believe will endanger our communities and our lives. It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing—I urge you to pray for a safer Iowa and vote NO on the Gun Amendment to the Iowa Constitution!

For more information, contact me or see: Iowa Conference: Advocate for responsible firearm laws in Iowa ( Conference: Speaking Up About the Prevention of Gun Violence ( Conference: Mental Health and Responsible Firearm Laws ( Action — Iowans for Responsible Gun LawsStrict Scrutiny – Iowans for Gun Safety