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March 17, 2011

"Shepherds lead, but flocks diverge on morality of death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece in the Houston Chronicle.  Here is how it gets started:

Last week, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law abolishing the death penalty in his state, adding the Land of Lincoln to the growing list of 16 states where capital punishment is no longer an option.... Quinn, who is Catholic, revealed that he turned to his faith -- to the Bible and to Catholic leaders and tradition -- in contemplating the bill lawmakers delivered to him in January.

The governor quoted Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the beloved archbishop of Chicago who died in 1996, saying, "In a complex, sophisticated democracy like ours, means other than the death penalty are available and can be used to protect society."  Religious leaders have been at the forefront of the death penalty abolitionist movement in Illinois and nationwide. But there has been a disconnect between their activism and the opinions of their flocks.

According to a 2010 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 62 percent of Americans support the death penalty in murder cases, with only 30 percent saying they oppose it.  That figure is nearly identical to the results of a similar survey in 2007 but lower than a 1996 survey, when 78 percent of Americans said they supported capital punishment for murder and just 18 percent said they were opposed.

Survey results on the death penalty vary little across religious groups - at least among white Americans.  Last year, 74 percent of white evangelicals, 71 percent of white mainline Protestants and 68 percent of white Catholics said they favor capital punishment, according to Pew.  But less than half of black Protestants (37 percent) and Hispanic Catholics (43 percent) said they approve of the death penalty.  

"The light of God is shining, shining positively on our state," Illinois state Sen. Kwame Raoul said after Quinn signed the death penalty ban.  Raoul was not alone in thinking that the Illinois ban is a moral as well as a legal victory for people of good faith.  As more states examine whether to eliminate capital punishment, some wonder whether the days of the death penalty are numbered and what, if any, role people of faith might play in reaching such a tipping point.

 

Some older posts on religion and the death penalty:

March 17, 2011 at 08:41 PM | Permalink

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Comments

For those who believe in prayer. Pray Governor Pat Quinn gets hijacked and pistol whipped by a prisoner with LWOP. To deter.

The officials of the Church of our Our Lady of the Cover Up of Child Abuse lecture its believers. Governor Quinn must have consulted the Bible that did not command its believers to kill all life in a conquered village down to the last animal.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 18, 2011 1:00:00 AM

I like what you have said,it is really helpful to me,thanks!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 7:56:19 AM

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