December 18, 2008

Execution isn't path to a peaceful society

As Christians, church leaders and bishops in the Episcopal Church, we urge the General Assembly to act to abolish the death penalty ("Report fuels death debate," Dec. 13).

As Christians, we are guided by the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Here he specifically rejects retribution by stating that even the teaching in the Old Testament of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is to be rejected in favor of the teaching that calls for reconciliation (Matthew, 6:38).

Responding to killing with more killing will not make society less violent. Retaliating for death with death is not simply punishment but a further justification of violence as a way of life. We simply cannot kill our way out of the violence.

The uneven application of the death penalty also points to its fundamental unfairness. And the reality is that, as a result of prosecutorial discretion, the death penalty is most often used against people of color and poorer people.

As Christians, we affirm the sanctity of every human life. We believe this principle applies to people of many faiths, and join with our sisters and brothers from other faiths in calling for society to affirm the sanctity of all human life.

We further question whether humans have enough expertise and knowledge that we can be certain about the evidence used to put someone on death row.

As we learn that innocent people have been convicted and sentenced to death, we have to ask: Can we ever say with certainty that we cannot or will not execute innocent people?

We must all work for a less violent society. We need to ask ourselves if having the death penalty makes us a less violent society.

We believe that it does precisely the opposite.

The United States stands with oppressive governments in its insistence on using the death penalty. Yet we see no major reduction in violence in our society.

Our intent should be to build a society that is less violent, one where people are not subject to violence of any kind.

This will happen only as we address the matters that drive people to violence.

The Rev. John L. Rabb, Baltimore

The Rev. James J. Shand, Easton

The writers are, respectively, the bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton.

How could killing put an end to killing?

Killing is a violent act. The death penalty is a violent act ("Report fuels death debate," Dec. 13).

How can using a violent act bring about an end to violence?

Rita Bueche, Baltimore

Rest of justice system may be equally flawed

Dan Rodricks' column "Report may put final nail in death penalty" ( Dec. 16) notes that, "In its report, [the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment] concludes that, over the past 30 years, the death penalty in Maryland has been expensive and ineffective, riddled with error and tainted with racial and geographic disparities beyond reform."

What then, if I may ask, makes the death penalty any different from the rest of the criminal justice system in Maryland?

Alexander D. Mitchell IV, Baltimore

Can Obama handle the terrorist threat?

Although President Bush's approval ratings are low as he prepares to leave office, at least he has kept us safe, as there have been no further terrorist attacks by radical Islamists on our homeland since the 9/11 attacks ("Bush visit to Iraq marred by protests," Dec. 15).

The safety and security of the nation should be the primary concern of any commander-in-chief. This is not a safe world, and threats from Islamist radicals continue to grow.

Yet the left-wing liberals have already started pushing their agenda to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay and possibly release the dangerous terrorists kept under lock and key there. That would be a huge mistake.

Similarly, we must not negotiate with states like Iran that are a haven for Islamist terrorists.

The possibility of a nuclear or biological attack against this country in the next four years is real.

The big question now is: Will President-elect Barack Obama be ready to respond to such threats and to keep the homeland safe from terrorist attacks for the next four years?

Al Eisner, Wheaton

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