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Death penalty a “gateway issue”

Death penalty a “gateway issue”

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) will deliver an open letter signed by 325 faith leaders to the statehouse next week. The letter allows that some faith leaders wish to retain the death penalty, while others oppose it.

To be clear, some of us do not oppose capital punishment, and others among us would prefer to see it ended. We are united in seeking a criminal justice system that is both fair and accurate.

All of us want our society protected and dangerous criminals held accountable, but not in a way that treats offenders and victims differently based on skin color, geographic location of a crime, or in a way which does not consider mental culpability. We cannot accept the possibility of executing an innocent person. …

The scriptures and sacred texts of all our faiths demand fairness, accuracy, and mercy at a threshold far higher than the law currently prescribes. There is no question in any of our minds that if Ohio is to continue to have a death penalty, it must be administered fairly.

The Dispatch spoke to the Revd Richard Burnett, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus, who said, “I’m for abolition.”

Burnett considers the death penalty a “gateway issue” that can inform social policy on other issues, such as gun violence, the Black Lives Matter movement and regard for the poor.

“It’s also a gateway issue for spiritual maturity,” he added. “It opens up a lot of questions about compassion, and not just pity, not just sympathy, but real compassion.”

Read the Faith Leaders Initiative open letter here; find the Columbus Dispatch story here.

Featured image: Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, Ohio

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