On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected inmate challenges to the three drug “cocktail” used to execute prisoners. This system to apply the death penalty sedates, paralyzes, then kills an inmate in a sequence designed to be “humane”. Many states had issued moratoriums on executions pending the outcome of this appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The governors of several states immediately lifted those moratoriums in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has a Social Statement on the Death Penalty dating back to 1991 which continues to guide our church in matters relating to the death penalty.
That statement of the church, recognizing that the government has the authority and power to take a life, opposes the death penalty primarily because the death penalty;
- “… does not restore a broken society and can actually work counter to restoration.”
- “… Despite attempts to provide legal safeguards, the death penalty has not and cannot be made fair.”
- “… The practice of the death penalty undermines any possible moral message we might want to ‘send”. … The message conveyed by an execution … is one of brutality and violence.”
At the same time, the statement recognizes that the members of this church are not of one mind in this matter.
The death penalty is an emotional issue. People tend to be passionate about their deeply held beliefs.
I don’t believe anyone is outside the realm of possible redemption … and believe that society has a right to protect ourselves from those who seek to do harm. The death penalty declares an individual to be worthless and outside possible redemption.