Ohio Religious Leaders Express Views on Capital Punishment

Religious leaders from a variety of faiths spoke about their religious objections to the death penalty at a recent meeting in Columbus, Ohio. The meeting included leaders from several Christian denominations as well as Jewish leaders. Jack Chomsky, cantor at Congregation Tifereth Israel, said he hopes more of his colleagues will join him in speaking out about Jewish tradition, which opposes the enforcement of the death penalty. Jerald Freewalt, of the Office for Social Concerns at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, said, "No matter who you are and what you’ve done, human life is sacred. I just hope that we can all come together and work as a community of faith to reach out to victims and their families, and to inmates and their families, and build more of a community based on love and hope." Ohio's death penalty has recently gained scrutiny as a task force reviews the states practices. The task force is expected to make reform recommendations later this year. 

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BOOKS: Contemporary Religious Views on the Death Penalty

Anthony Santoro has written a new book about religious perspectives on the death penalty, Exile and Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty. In describing the book, John D. Bessler, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said, “Santoro tells the stories of everyone from death row chaplains to bloggers and Bible study participants. In discussing transgression, retribution, and ‘the other,’ he skillfully demonstrates how executions say more about us than about the offenders.” Santoro is a postdoctoral fellow at Heidelberg University in Germany.

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NEW VOICES: Cost and Impact on Victims' Families Among Concerns for Conservative Christians

A recent article in the Liberty Champion, a publication of Liberty University, discussed the concerns some conservative Christians have about the death penalty. The article by student Whitney Rutherford focused on the financial costs of the death penalty and its emotional toll on murder victims’ families: “Rather than providing victims, their families, and the family of the accused an expedient result, these groups are dragged through the emotional upheaval of waiting and watching the justice system work.” The author also quoted James R. Acker, a distinguished professor at the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Albany, who questioned the role of capital punishment in a recent Colorado case. Acker asked, “Would the time and money devoted to achieving this man’s death not be better spent on services and law enforcement initiatives meant to repair and prevent the mindless devastation of criminal homicide?” The article concluded, “Christians may support capital punishment without negating their beliefs, but the modern approach to capital punishment is an expensive and emotionally destructive path. The death penalty has become a pit of money and lost years without providing the justice that victims expect.”

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BOOKS: "Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty"

A new book, “Where Justice and Mercy Meet: Catholic Opposition to the Death Penalty,” offers a comprehensive discussion of Catholic teaching on capital punishment. It explores a wide range of issues related to the death penalty, including racism, mental illness, and economic disparities. The book is edited by Trudy Conway and David Matzko McCarthy, both professors at Mount St. Mary’s University, and Vicki Schieber--the mother of a murder victim. It includes a foreword by Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Archbishop Emeritus of Galveston-Houston, said the book "is a treasure trove of information on the necessity and urgency to abolish an antiquated approach to capital crimes."

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