Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Faithful? Politicians? Pro-Life? . . . I'm confused

In the 1980s, something big happened in America - the religious right started voting en masse and American politics have never been the same. In the past elections, Republicans have far exceeded Democrats in getting the "religious vote," and Democrats have been running to catch up. More and more Democrats are attempting to speak in religious terms, even as some churches are telling their members that they cannot be Christians and vote Democrat.

One of the new Democratic attempts to mobilize religious voters in a new website called Faithful Democrats. This website and group, co-founded by Tennessee State Senator Roy Herron, puts forward Christian arguments on Democratic and progressive issues. I'm not coming down on one side or another of this debate - that would require a much longer entry and I don't think that anyone would actually read it - but here's where I will speak out: Where are these faithful Democrats on the death penalty? In an article questioning the pro-life ethic (does pro-life only mean abortion) the writer failed to mention the death penalty anywhere.

Now for me, and I'm sure many others who are motivated to fight the death penalty from a faith perspective, this is unconscionable. People of faith from across the country and the religious spectrum have called for an end to capital punishment, not only because it violates our belief in the sanctity of human life and puts human beings and human government sin the position of usurping God's position as the one and only judge, but also because of the unfair targeting of the least of God's children - the poor, the mentally ill, those discriminated against because of their race. And most (not all but most) of the Christian denominations in the country have come out against the death penalty including the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Disciples of Christ to name a few (for a more complete list of denomiation and their statements of opposition click here). And yet, faithful democrats, whose arguments are based both on Christian faith traditions (Roy Herron was previously a United Methodist minister) and care and concern for the poor and oppressed, make no serious mention of the death penalty anywhere on this site.

Now I don't want to seem naive. I kknow that this is an election year, and politicians (Democrat and Republican) who talk about their faith do so, in large part, to win votes. And maybe opposing the death penalty, despite what we know about its risks of executing innocents, its targeting of the poor, the mentally ill, and racial minorities, its extravagant costs, and its failure to protect us from crime, is not a winning political issue. But to challenge pro-life arguments and not even mention the death penalty is to run scared and be disingenuous.

So here's what we do. Let's not let this slip by. Go to and let's make some comments. Let's talk about the death penalty (abolition has often, sadly, been a Democratic issue) and let's spark some internet debate. Let's get the word out that lots of faithful people, Democrat and Republican alike, are called by their faiths to oppose the death penalty. And we think that our elected officials who feel the same should have the courage to say so.

Comments :
We have open registration and open reader diaries at Faithful Democrats, so if you'd like to write about the death penalty, you are more than welcome to. Thanks for reading.

Matt Kuzma
Managing Editor
Dear Matt,

Thank you for your comment and I appreciate the opportunity. However, I think that you may have missed my point a little bit. I was pointing out that it is sad that so many of these "faithful Democrats" are still unwilling to stand up and talk about the death penalty, even those who come from religious denominations that strongly condemn its use. If they want to stand up as moral leaders, especially talking about a mroecomplete understanding of being "pro-life" why haven't we heard a peep about the state's attempts to kill?
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