South Dakota has scheduled the execution of 24-year-old Elijah Page on August 28 for a murder committed in 2000. Page has dropped his remaining appeals. He would be the first person executed in the state since it reinstated capital punishment in 1979. The last execution in the state was in 1947. South Dakota has only four people on its death row.

Among church leaders in South Dakota, there is a difference of opinion with regard to capital punishment. Catholic, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches generally oppose it, and Southern Baptists typically support the death penalty. However, Jesse Moore, a Southern Baptist minister in the state, says he breaks with his church’s position, noting, “I look at the idea of the sanctity of life, which is where I draw my opposition to abortion. If I’m going to value the life of an unborn child in the womb, I have to give the same value to a life that’s outside the womb.” The Rev. Charles Cimpl, pastor at St. Michael Catholic Church in Sioux Falls, agreed. The Catholic Church believes in an obligation to promoting “a culture of life,” Cimpl said. “Human life is sacred from conception to natural death. Anytime we intentionally go against that, we’re breaking the dignity of human life.”

During his trial, Page’s long history of child abuse was revealed. According to testimony and court records, Page’s mother allowed her young son to be molested in exchange for drugs, and his stepfather once used him as a human shield during a drug-related gun fight. When his mother lost custody of her children, Page was shuffled to as many as twelve foster homes and became a frequent runaway. As he sentencing Page to death, Circuit Judge Warren Johnson noted, “Most people treat their pets better than your parents treated their kids.”

(Sioux Falls Argus Leader, March 19, 2006). See New Voices and Upcoming Executions.