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Redemption, Justice, and the Death Penalty- by Carl R. Carmichael

The Wyoming Interfaith Network, (WIN), along with its predecessor the Wyoming Association of Churches, has opposed the death penalty for decades. At WIN, we support the repeal of the death penalty on spiritual, moral and philosophical grounds. Capital punishment is an anachronism that serves no appreciable purpose as it does not deter crime, is fiscally draining for the justice system and is wholly unjust in its application.

As a Christian, I oppose the death penalty on moral and spiritual grounds. The death penalty stands in direct contrast to my sincere belief that all human life is sacred and created by God and that we must see all human life as significant and valuable. Conversely, the taking of another human life by any means or for any justification must be viewed as the greatest sacrilege.

What clearer example can we point to for Christian opposition to the death penalty than in the Bible, John 8, verses 2-11, where Jesus stops the execution by stoning of a woman who had broken a law, with the famous quote “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

As a Christian and a United Methodist, we followers of Christ believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. As a United Methodist, the Social Principles in the United Methodist Book of Discipline state very clearly that “the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings.” The Discipline continues, “We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable.” The gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. Again from the Discipline “For this reason, we oppose the death penalty and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.”

Objection to the death penalty also comes from the fact that it is not always used fairly and has failed to make society safer. Instead, the practice of using the death penalty for punishment for capital crimes undermines any possible moral message since the main message conveyed by an execution is one of brutality and violence. It is not possible to accept the taking of human life in response to a capital crime, the equation does not balance out when using the death penalty as punishment.

The Wyoming legislature should repeal the death penalty and defer such violent and reprehensible capital cases to life without parole. This will accomplish the same level of deterrence that the revenge killing of another human being does, and leaves the door open for true repentance and reconciliation on the part of the criminal. In addition, the huge amount of funding that is currently used for the death penalty process is needed to fund programs related to victim support services, effective law enforcement, drug treatment programs, child and family services, and mental healthcare – all alternatives that can prevent future acts of violence.

Revenge is not the answer to our societal problems; the execution of innocent human beings, wrongly convicted, is a systemic problem when using the death penalty as punishment. Once invoked, it is too late for an innocent person. There have been many instances where the death penalty was administered to people who, upon further investigation, were in fact innocent of the crimes they stood accused of.

While my reasoning and convictions are as a United Methodist and a Christian, I know that people from various backgrounds and faith traditions stand with me in my opposition to this horrible act of America’s flawed justice system. Working together with other like-minded faith communities, we all, together, have a good shot at repealing the death penalty in Wyoming in 2020. Please check our website and social media for ways to stay involved and make your voice heard on this issue.

Peace and Blessings,

Carl R. Carmichael, Board Chair

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