This week the Nebraska Legislature debated and voted on a bill to abolish the death penalty as an option for murder convictions. Sen. Ernie Chambers, in his final year of service due to newly term limits, offered the push for this bill as he has for the last 30 years. I really thought that it may actually get passed this time around. Much to my disappointment, the bill failed 28-20.
In early February, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair is cruel and unusual. For those of you that don’t know, electrocution is the only means of death in Nebraska. More info on the ruling can be found here: New York Times.
Yes, Nebraska now allows for the death penalty without any means of imposing that punishment. I like to think of this as the “systems” way of “sticking it to themselves.”
I watched much of the floor debate on television as I sat in Nebraska during break. I wanted to be there in person, but my recent encounter with a deer prohibited that. Through watching this, I realized how politicians generalize statements and rarely use any logic that would be acceptable in a entry level philosophy class. Those who favored keeping the death penalty stated that no matter what there personal convictions were, they had to respect the polls that showed a majority of Nebraskans supported the death penalty. Now, any of us that have taken any statistics or political polling class now that these polls can be misleading and favor a certain demographic…like people who own telephones and have the numbers listed! Forget any of the polling problems, it seemed very much like a way to sidestep any moral responsibility for their vote. “I have to represent the people, now what I think”. Bull! If we never made a decision on what was right versus what is popular we would have many socially devastating laws and institutions in place. Yes, I’m referring to slavery and state sponsored racism.
My greatest problem all of this is that the political might of the churches should help get the death penalty abolished once and for all. Two large churches in a vast majority of Nebraska communities is the Catholic church and the United Methodist Church. Both of these religious communities oppose the use of the death penalty. Pro-Life anyone? If each of these churches educated its members on their position on the issue, I can almost guarantee the thoughts of the majority would change. I’m too lazy to find the language around the Catholic church’s comments about the death penalty, but here is the stance of the United Methodist Church.
“We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in the person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.”(Social Principles,¶ 164G)
Scripture reference: Matthew 5:38-39 and John 8:1-10
I find it difficult to sit and have meaningful conversation with people who support the death penalty. Inevitably it will always come to, “If someone in your family is killed, don’t you want to see that person suffer the same way?” It’s that exact situation that makes want to have the death penalty abolished. I don’t want the ability for that to happen. I most likely won’t be of sound mind when the process would come about, and the State will kill someone with my support. Governments should not kill! If the option isn’t there, then we can assure that mistakes don’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, murderers need to be punished. I think that life in prison is more than suitable punishment. Insert argument: “Why should we pay for them to sit around their whole life?” My answer, GOVERNMENTS SHOULDN’T KILL PEOPLE! Also, research has shown that the cost of life in prison is less expensive than the entire death row experience.
Okay, I’ve vented enough for now. Just had to get these thoughts down. They may not all be coherent, but it’s a start. Oh, by the way, I hit a deer with my car on the way home for Easter. $3000 in damage. I’m fine, the car will be. Thankfully I have good insurance and it won’t cost too much out of pocket. Just more stress than I need right now.
Grace and Peace,