Pro-Life Christians Protest Death Penalty at Supreme Court

unnamed
Forty years after the first execution of Gary Gilmore under contemporary laws, 18 pro-life people of faith were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday — including Sojourners colleagues Lisa Sharon Harper and Peter Armstrong.

The group unfurled a 30-foot-long banner that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the steps of the Court.  On the sidewalk, a crowd of over 80 supporters observed the action, carrying 40 posters (1 for each year) with the names of the other 1442 men and women executed since 1977.

They also carried roses in two colors, a reminder that they are remembering both families of the murdered and families of the executed as they stand together saying, as one banner did, “We Remember the Victims, But Not With More Killing.”

The group included several murder victim family members, a death row exoneree, family members of the incarcerated, pastors and religious leaders, and national leaders in the death penalty abolition movement. It was the largest act of civil disobedience against the death penalty in modern history.

Shane Claiborne, influential Christian author and activist, speaking of the significance of religious leaders, said this:  “Sadly, the death penalty has succeeded in America not in spite of Christians but because of us.  Over 80% of executions in the past 40 years have been in the Bible Belt.  As a Christian, that is especially troubling because one of the tenants of our faith is this: No one is beyond redemption.  Much of the Bible was written by murderers who were given a second chance. Moses. David. Paul.  The Bible would be much shorter without grace.  So it was a beautiful thing to stand alongside my fellow clergy and faith leaders…  And, if you go to jail, it’s good to have a nun and a priest next to you.  As we look at history, we are reminded that we’ve got good company among the holy troublemakers who have gone to jail for justice.  Abortion is not the only pro-life issue.”

Those arrested were Peter Armstrong (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Leroy Barber (Portland, OR), Abraham J. Bonowitz (Columbus, OH), SueZann Bosler (Miami, FL), Shawn Casselberry (Chicago, IL), Shane Claiborne (Philadelphia, PA), John Dear (Santa Fe, NM), Randy Gardner (Taylorsville, UT), Lisa Sharon Harper (Sojourners, Washington, DC), Derrick Jamison (Cincinnati, OH), Art Laffin (Washington, DC), Scott Langley (Ghent, NY), Michael McBride (Oakland, CA), Tom Muther (Topeka, KS), Doug Pagitt (Minneapolis, MN), Jack Payden-Travers (Lynchburg, VA), Sam R. Sheppard (Oakland, CA), and Kelton Tupper (Cheverly, MD).

Those arrested spent 30 grueling hours in D.C. lock-up with the Supreme Court police, D.C. Dept. of Corrections Central Cell Block, and in the holding cells of D.C. Superior Court. They were arraigned on Wednesday afternoon arraigned in chains before Judge Staples in D.C. Superior Court. They were charged with “parading” and given a “stay away order” from the grounds of the Supreme Court. A status hearing was set for Feb. 24.

Since 1977, there have been 1442 more state-sponsored executions. Nearly 3,000 prisoners are currently on death rows in 31 states.

CNN’s Carol Costello: Can You Be Pro-Life and Pro-Death Penalty?

costelloI missed this great op-ed piece by CNN’s Carol Costello that ran in May on the consistent ethic of life.

I find myself perpetually, uncomfortably, and instinctively part of the 8% of Americans who believe that both abortion and the death penalty are affronts to the God of Life and the call to reconciliation.

But there’s a vast ethical and moral difference between the “principalities and powers” of State-imposed execution and the pastoral universe of multivalent forces that may press down on a woman and her family. The ethic is engaged consistently: prophetically against the State, and pastorally with a human being.

Here’s Carol Costello:

Can you be pro-life and pro-death penalty?

It’s a question more than one person I know is asking after Oklahoma’s botched execution of Clayton Lockett. Not necessarily because of the way Oklahoma tortuously executed the convicted killer, but because of the hard-core way some reacted to Lockett’s execution.

Like Mike Christian. The pro-life Oklahoma state representative told The Associated Press, “I realize this may sound harsh, but as a father and former lawman, I really don’t care if it’s by lethal injection, by the electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or being fed to the lions.”

He also threatened to impeach judges who dared delay executions for any reason.

This is from a man who is so strongly pro-life he voted for eight bills in four years to prevent women in Oklahoma from terminating their pregnancies, or, as many who oppose abortion say, “killing babies.”

Color me confused. So, Rep. Christian says it’s OK to kill, unless you’re a woman who wants to end her pregnancy?
As I told my friends during a heated debate last weekend, that smacks of hypocrisy.

The only nonhypocritical viewpoint, I argued, exists in the Catholic Church.

Catholics believe in the “Consistent Ethic of Life.” As Georgetown’s Father Thomas Reese puts it, “we are concerned about a person from womb to tomb.”

“Life is something that comes from God and shouldn’t be taken away by man,” Reese told me.

Put simply, the Catholic Church opposes abortion and the death penalty. Period. Except nothing in life is that simple. Especially our collective views on the death penalty and abortion.
If you ask a Southern Baptist, he or she will likely tell you the Catholic Church is wrong.

“There is no contradiction here,” R. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told me, referring to Rep. Christian’s underlying position. …..

Read the rest here.

Eve Jailed for Choosing Life

On June 27, 2012, Eve Tetaz, 80, was found guilty of violating 40 USC 6135 for holding a banner on the grounds of the U.S. Supreme Court protesting the use of capital punishment in the United States.

Eve was initially sentenced to a $350 fine, a 3-year probationary term and stay-away from the U.S. Supreme Court, and a 30 day sentence, all suspended but 15 days. However, at her June 27 sentencing before Judge McKenna Eve said she could not in good conscience cooperate with fines, probation, or a stay way order from the court grounds. Consequently, she was sentenced to 60 days in D.C. Jail – the maximum statutory sentence allowed.

“I’ve spoken with Eve a few times by phone,” said her sister. “Her spirits are good, although she still is not receiving all her medicines. Visiting hours are restrictive – one hour once a week. She still does not have commissary privileges and they confiscated her pen and writing paper so she’s not able to write except when a fellow inmate gives her paper and pen. She enjoys being with her co-prisoners and is doing some tutoring.”

I’ve been arrested with Eve, a former public school teacher and member of Eighth Day Faith Community, several times. Fearless, clear, willing to put her body on the line for justice when so many others can not. If you would like to send letters of support, you can address them to: Eve Tetaz Inmate # 316087, DC JAIL, 1901 E St SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. Please keep her in your prayers — especially that she receives all her medications.

Waxing the Waterboard?

There’s an important conversation happening now at the tail end of the Bush-Cheney administration about whether or not to prosecute President Bush and Vice President Cheney on criminal charges for illegal acts they committed during their administration.

Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero
Abu Ghraib series by Fernando Botero

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York has urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and other senior Bush administration officials for violations of the law relating to the torture of prisoners in US custody. Nadler is the chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Read his letter to the Attorney General here.

Over at JosephRoss.net, my compatriot Joe is raising similar questions. He writes:

George W. Bush is a president who approved torture, allowed the CIA to fly prisoners to other countries for torture, who repeatedly stated that the U.S. does not torture and then it was proven that we do. We just didn’t call it that. As long as it’s called “enhanced interrogation techniques” and “stress positions” it’s alright and legal. This is also a president whose vice-president, just last week, admitted that he approved of “waterboarding” which is against the law. Recall that the U.S. has actually prosecuted other countries for “waterboarding.” Now we’re suddenly not sure it’s torture?

We have  all been looking on as our president romantically remembers all the good times he had as president. He is photographed looking reflectively out windows, goes on talk shows describing what he will miss, gives interviews like an entertainer whose concert tour has come to an end. This politeness ought to be more than Americans will tolerate.

I’m certain the last thing the Obama Administration wants is to investigate a former U.S. president and perhaps find him or others in the Bush Administration guilty of breaking both U.S. law and international law. Yet, what is to stop a future U.S. president from doing equally immoral and illegal acts if we do not hold the present one accountable?

Read the whole post here.

There’s always an argument made to “let by-gones be by-gones” at the end of a presidency. The incoming administration doesn’t want the next one to turn around and investigate them! Understandable, but WRONG when it comes to preserving the Constitution and now allowing laws to be broken with impunity.

“This shocking admission by Vice President [Cheney that he was aware of the waterboarding program and “helped get the process cleared”] demands at a minimum a federal investigation and,” Congressman Nadler says, “if necessary, the pursuit of criminal charges. No one is above the law and, if the Vice President admits he broke the law, then he must be held responsible.”

In one of the first acts of the 111th Congress, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers proposed legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts – National Commission on Presidential War Powers and Civil Liberties- to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers,” including torture of detainees and warrantless wiretaps.

Lest any of think that “warrantless wiretaps” only happen to “other people,” I suggest reading the story Spying on Pacifists, Environmentalists, and Nuns (LA Times, December 7, 2008) about the Maryland State Police sending undercover agents to infiltrate the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance and Marylanders Against the Death Penalty. It’s a prime example of how “them” is now “us.”