"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

U.S.: Hispanic Evangelicals call for death penalty repeal

The National Latino Evangelical Coalition
They are the 1st national association of evangelical congregations to take a position in favour of death penalty repeal. Many Catholic groups support them.

In a unanimous vote on Friday March 27, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) urged its 3,000 member congregations to end capital punishment across the country.

The announcement was made in Orlando, where NaLEC leadership voted in favour of capital punishment repeal.

"As Christ followers, we are called to work toward justice for all", Coalition President, and lead pastor at Lamb's Church in New York, Gabriel Salguero, stated. "And as Latinos, we know too well that justice is not always even-handed", he added.

LONG DISCERNMENT

Salguero said the decision came after a years-long discernment process that included "prayer, reflection, and dialog with anti-death penalty organizations like Equal Justice USA (EJUSA)."

Through this process, they tried to understand the Bible imperative to "do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God." "The gospel calls us to speak out for life, and our unanimous decision today to call for the end of capital punishment is part of that commitment", the president explained.

Salguero pointed out that there are substantial injustices in how the death penalty is administered because "human beings are fallible and there is no room for fallibility in matters of life and death".

NaLEC is the 1st national association of evangelical congregations to take a position in favour of death penalty repeal.

The vote came days after Debra Milke, a woman who spent more than two decades on death row, was exonerated by an Arizona court.

COBELLIGERENCE IN IMPORTANT ISSUES

NaLEC is not the only group that has publicly talked against death penalty. On Good Friday, more than 400 Catholic and evangelical leaders signed a statement against death penalty.

"Christ on the cross is a reminder of the millions of people who have been executed by government in history and how grotesque it really is and, often, how unjust it is", said David Gushee, an evangelical ethicist at Mercer University in Atlanta.

Gushee is one of the signers of a statement against death penalty, as are 2 former presidents of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Joseph A. Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston and William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington.); Miguel Diaz, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See; and Jim Wallis, Timothy P. Kesicki, head of all Jesuit priests in the U.S. and Canada; and Richard Cizik, a former vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The letter described death penalty as a "practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration", and urged governors, judges and prosecutors to end with it.

Advocacy groups are having success at the state level in banning the death penalty. Equal Justice USA has been influential in banning the death penalty in New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland.

"The faith community has been a critical force in the movement to repeal the death penalty", confirmed Heather Beaudoin, who directs evangelical outreach for EJUSA.

"EJUSA has found that evangelicals are eager to take another look at this issue, reflecting what we are seeing in the country as a whole", EJUSA's Executive Director Shari Silberstein said.

Silberstein believed that while the Latino Coalition was the first to take this stance, "I do not think they will be the last".

DEATH PENALTY SUPPORT

American support for the death penalty has hit the lowest levels in 40 years. Much of this eagerness may be among younger Christians. According to a 2014 Barna survey on the death penalty, 23 % of millennials (born 1980-2000) who described themselves as Christian agreed with the statement: "The government should have the option to execute the worst criminals."

Hispanics and African Americans (Catholic and Protestant) are the most opposed to capital punishment. White evangelical Protestants are the greatest supporters of it with 67 % of those surveyed by Pew favouring capital punishment. In early February, Rasmussen Reports released a new survey showing that 57 % of American adults favour the death penalty.

Besides, only 5 % of Americans think Jesus would support the executions of criminals through death penalty.

So far in 2015, there have been 10 executions carried out. Since 1976, there have been 1,404 executions in total with 1999 having the greatest number, 98.

Source: evangelicalfocus.com, April 8, 2015


Prominent Latino Evangelical Group Joins Effort to Repeal Death Penalty in Groundbreaking Move

In a groundbreaking move, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) on Friday became the first national association of Evangelical congregations to join the effort to repeal the death penalty.

Speaking at a press conference in Orlando, FL, Rev. Gabriel Salguero, President of NaLEC, stated, "We are here on this historic moment to announce publicly that we and our partners around the country are taking a public stance against the death penalty; we are calling for the abolition of the death penalty."

Since 1973, 150 people who were found guilty and sentenced to death row were later exonerated, leading NaLEC to argue that the death penalty has not been carried out in a just manner. Additionally, studies have shown that the race of the victim has a profound effect on which crimes receive the death penalty.

"People convicted of murdering a white victim are many times more likely to get sentenced to death than people convicted of killing Latinos or African Americans. In California, Latinos are murdered at twice the rate of white people, yet 11 of the 13 people executed in the state were convicted of killing a white person," Heather Beaudoin, National Advocacy Coordinator of the Equal Justice USA, told the Gospel Herald in an email.

"Nationally, Latinos are murdered at twice the rate of white people, but less than 7% of victims in pending death penalty cases are Latino. A recent study from the University of Nebraska Lincoln shows that Latino defendants are more likely to be sentenced to death by white jurors. In 96% of the states where there have been reviews of race and the death penalty, there was a pattern of either race of victim or race of defendant discrimination or both."

The members of NaLEC believe that repealing the death penalty is not just a social issue, but more importantly, a Biblical one.

"We are a pro-life organization and we believe the death penalty is an anti-life practice," Rev. Salguero said. "As Christ followers, we are called to work toward justice for all. And as Latinos, we know too well that justice is not always even-handed. The death penalty is plagued by racial and economic disparities and risks executing an innocent person. Human beings are fallible and there is no room for fallibility in matters of life and death."

NaLEC, a group which seeks to "respond to a real need for Latino and Latina Evangelical voices committed to the common good and justice in the public sphere," has focused on a variety of criminal justice issues since their formation. However, the death penalty conversation escalated when Equal Justice USA had the opportunity to speak with them and highlight current problems with the death penalty.

"After prayer, reflection, and dialog with anti-death penalty organizations like Equal Justice USA, we felt compelled to add our voice to this important issue," Rev. Salguero explained.

While there is much more work to be done, the members of NaLEC take comfort in the major strides already taken to repeal the death penalty, and are urging the group's 3,000 member congregations to support them in working towards ending capital punishment across the United States.

"The good news is that people across the ideological spectrum are coming together and calling for an end to the death penalty," Ms. Beaudoin told the Gospel Herald. "In the last few years six states repealed the death penalty. In the last two years Republicans in Montana, Kentucky, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and New Hampshire sponsored bills to repeal in their states. We are hopeful that more faith leaders will join NaLEC and the end of the death penalty is not far away."

Source: The Gospel Herald, March 27, 2015

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