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October 27, 2009

"Texas Faith: Are Texans immoral for supporting the death penalty?"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece from the Dallas Morning News. The piece has thoughtful and extended responses to the question above from more than a dozen diverse clergy members, and here is how the piece sets up the religious inquiry:

In Texas, more than 400 people have been executed since capital punishment was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Ours is the busiest death chamber in the nation - and Texans overwhelmingly back the death penalty. Polls indicate that nearly three-quarters of Texans support capital punishment.

What is the moral dimension?... Is it moral to support capital punishment? Or are Texans immoral because they support the death penalty?  The responses from our Texas Faith panelists are varied, provocative and well worth reading amid this political and faith-based debate

Some related posts on religion and the death penalty:

October 27, 2009 at 06:39 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Well OF COURSE Texans are immoral for supporting the death penalty! This is because EVERTONE who supports the death penalty is immoral, as we have been told by commenters on this site many times.

It might be worth noting, though, that none of those taking this view has explained why he is morally more insightful or upright than Dwight Eisenhower, Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, all of whom not merely supported but used capital punishment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 27, 2009 7:45:35 PM

As someone who opposes the death penalty, I don't for a second believe that those who are in favor of it are "immoral." I believe that it's possible for two good people to have different ideas on the same highly-charged topic without one being "immoral."

I note that the religious right has no such problems labeling others who disagree with them immoral. Perhaps your vitriol should be directed at them, Bill.

Posted by: AC | Oct 27, 2009 7:50:41 PM

This is funny. The church killed millions of people to forcibly impose its loony beliefs on people. Now, that they no longer control government, they call supporters immoral. And the lawyer is using the Church's beliefs, methods, and business plans to confiscate the assets of everyone productive. "You blasphemed by eating meat on Friday. You must undergo the autodafe, or plead to a lesser charge and forfeit all your estates to the Church." Sounds familiar.

Let me get this straight. I give you money on this earth, and my reward will be in heaven, after my death. This scam is so powerful, that lawyer Madison immunized it in the very First Amendment. It is a bunco operation with its own protective Amendment to the Constitution.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 27, 2009 8:44:36 PM

AC --

"As someone who opposes the death penalty, I don't for a second believe that those who are in favor of it are "immoral." I believe that it's possible for two good people to have different ideas on the same highly-charged topic without one being 'immoral.'"

Good. I hadn't noticed that you said that when any of the numerous comments were made that DP backers are immoral, barbaric, sadistic, and on and on. But if you disagree with that sort of stuff, all the better.

"I note that the religious right has no such problems labeling others who disagree with them immoral. Perhaps your vitriol should be directed at them, Bill."

First, I don't recall declaring any alliegence to the religious right. Where was that?

Second, could you quote the words from my post that you find "vitriolic"?

Third, the subject of this blog is Sentencing Law and Policy. I am not here to discuss religious issues, and I don't. If you want to, I'm sure there are dozens of websites that would welcome you.

Fourth, if a point be made of it, I thought that both William Sloane Coffin (from the religious left) and Jimmy Swaggart (from the religious right) were pious, arrogant, dishonest airheads.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 27, 2009 10:57:05 PM

Forgive them father, they know not what they do.

Posted by: dm | Oct 28, 2009 5:43:39 AM

Bill -

I didn’t say you declared any allegiance to the religious right. Did you read the article linked to in the post? It’s about religious responses to the death penalty. I was making the point that the religious right is far more likely to label someone immoral than opponents of the death penalty.

“Virtriolic” is in the eye of the beholder, but take your statement:

“Well OF COURSE Texans are immoral for supporting the death penalty! This is because EVERTONE who supports the death penalty is immoral, as we have been told by commenters on this site many times.”

I’m going to assume you’re being sarcastic, and you don’t actually believe that Texans are immoral for supporting the death penalty. Again, vitriol is subjective, but I’d say your over-the-top sarcasm could be considered vitriolic.

And finally, the post we are commenting under concerns an article in a RELIGION BLOG. So the subject of the post is inherently religious. So religion just might enter into the comments.

Posted by: AC | Oct 28, 2009 12:13:09 PM

Who Would Jesus Execute?

Posted by: christian | Oct 28, 2009 2:23:21 PM

Bill and AC, I find it telling that most [all?] opposition to the death penalty on the right comes from the Christian Right.

Posted by: virginia | Oct 28, 2009 5:33:01 PM

AC --

"I didn’t say you declared any allegiance to the religious right."

No, you merely implied it by asking me, out of left field, why I didn't condemn the religious right.

"I was making the point that the religious right is far more likely to label someone immoral than opponents of the death penalty."

Could you give me some actual statistics on that, rather than merely your impression? And in fact, as you could not have helped seeing here, DP proponents are all the time labelled immoral, and worse. Have you asked anyone to condmen that false accusation?

"I’m going to assume you’re being sarcastic, and you don’t actually believe that Texans are immoral for supporting the death penalty. Again, vitriol is subjective, but I’d say your over-the-top sarcasm could be considered vitriolic."

Actually, the word "vitriol" is defined in the dictionary, so its meaning is NOT subjective. Nor is its meaning "sarcasm."

"And finally, the post we are commenting under concerns an article in a RELIGION BLOG. So the subject of the post is inherently religious. So religion just might enter into the comments."

As I have learned over time, ANYTHING just might enter into the comments, but that is not to say that it belongs here.

I agree that notions of punishment are or can be informed, in a broad way, by religious values, but that fact is a goodly ways from taking a gratuitious whack at the religious right in general.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 28, 2009 10:37:57 PM

christian --

"Who Would Jesus Execute?" You don't know and neither do I. Nor does the answer to that question, whatever it may be, determine the answer secular law in a multi-religious country should provide.

If you want theocratic law to tell the tale on punishments, Iran is your place. Maybe you ask the Grand Ayatollah, "Who Would Muhammed Execute?"

Or are you saying that Islam is inferior to Christianity?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 28, 2009 10:48:26 PM

AC: "I was making the point that the religious right is far more likely to label someone immoral than opponents of the death penalty."

Bill: "Could you give me some actual statistics on that, rather than merely your impression?"

Me: Let's see - was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who declared that the Teletubbies were immoral?

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who boycotted Disney due to Disney World not prohibiting homosexuals?

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who condemn women who wear pants, short skirts, or makeup?

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who said that you will go to Hell if you listen to the immoral music of Elvis Presley or The Beatles?

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who consider it to be sinful and immoral to go dancing?

Was it oppoents of the death penalty or the religious right who consider it immoral for married couples to use birth control? (oopsie, a trick question thanks to the Catholic Church)

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who believe that adultrous women should be stoned to death? (the religious right isn't just the Christian Right, you know)

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who claimed that ending slavery, mixing of the races, and desegregation is immoral?

Was it opponents of the death penalty or the religious right who blamed 9/11 on abortionists, homosexuals, and uppity women? (oopsie, another trick question thanks to Pat Robertson)

I could really go on all day with this, but I seriously hope you are joking.

Posted by: virginia | Oct 29, 2009 10:04:28 AM

Statistics on who's more likely to call someone immoral? What kind of statistics are you looking for? What if I looked up every instance in which a religious figure called someone immoral in the last 2,000 years and comnpared that to the number of times a death penalty opponent called someone immoral? Would that work?

Seriously, you were joking, right?

Last comment on this: "vitriol" is defined as "something highly caustic or severe in effect, as criticism." Do you think it's possible two people could differ in applying this definition to the same sentence? No? Then you and I have very different ideas about what "subjective" means.

Posted by: AC | Oct 29, 2009 12:05:47 PM

virginia --

"I could really go on all day with this..."

You did a pretty good job as it was.

"...but I seriously hope you are joking."

I doubt it. It's more likely that your "serious hopes" are that the country loses faith in its legal and moral right to execute the Timothy McVeigh's of this world. Is that correct?

P.S. Since anecdotal evidence, while colorful, is notoriously unreliable as an indicator of general sentiment, your list of anecdotes, seemingly taken from MoveOn.org or something similar, merely illustrates why I asked for something sturdier. It also illustrates why I didn't get it.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2009 4:39:20 PM

AC --

I'll be sure to let you know when I'm joking. And your response, which none-too-subtley moves from people on the "religious right" calling others immoral, to the massively broader category of "religious figures[s]" for 2000 years calling people immoral, neatly sidesteps the request for some evidence that would be more reliable as a general indicator than is your impression.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 29, 2009 4:50:58 PM

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