To Pastors, Clergy, and Congregational Leadership
The Time is Now: Your help is needed to repeal Maryland’s death penalty
Christians of all faith denominations have long held that the death penalty violates the sanctity of human life, eliminates the opportunity for redemption, and its application is not consonant with the example of Jesus’ forgiveness of injustice. Now, a new commission has thoroughly examined capital punishment in Maryland and recommended that the death penalty be repealed. The death penalty in Maryland is severely broken in the way it is carried out. In addition to moral considerations justice issues such as the risk of executing an innocent person carry a moral gravity that we also cannot ignore.
The Ecumenical Leader’s Group of Maryland, composed of a broad array of religious leaders, has formed the INTERFAITH COALITION TO END THE DEATH PENALTY to escalate our efforts and support the commission’s recommendation to repeal capital punishment. It is important at this time to join this statewide movement to repeal the death penalty. A number of opportunities to impact the repeal of this law will be available over the next few months. We need to do all that we can to ensure the Governor and legislators understand the importance of changing this law now.
The tide in Maryland is changing
“Two juries were wrong. Two judges were wrong. The state of Maryland was wrong. I am not here because the system worked. I am here because a series of miracles happened.”
-- Kirk Bloodsworth, an innocent man sentenced to death in Maryland. Kirk was the first person in the U.S. to be sentenced to death and later exonerated by DNA evidence.
This is a unique moment in our state’s history. Never before has our state looked so closely at this issue and come to an unequivocal conclusion that the system cannot be fixed. All aspects of community have looked at capital punishment and found it unjust, immoral, ineffective, and costly. Our faith communities have an unprecedented opportunity to influence concrete policy change on an issue that has long been a moral priority. When it comes to the death penalty, there will never be another moment like this!
In December 2008, the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment released a report that is a scathing indictment of Maryland’s death penalty. They found that the death penalty carries a risk of executing an innocent person, is unevenly applied, costs more than life without parole, and harms families who have lost a loved one to murder. The Commission recommended replacing the death penalty with life without parole, because the problems were so severe they could not be fixed.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has taken a strong stand in favor of repealing the death penalty. "I would like to see us evolve to a point where we all understand that the death penalty does not deter violent crime and does not save lives," Governor O'Malley said. "And in fact, we spend a whole lot of money prosecuting the death penalty when instead we could be preventing crime and saving lives by putting those dollars into other things that actually do work.”
What you can do
"It is critical that legislators hear from their constituents on this issue. A personal phone call or letter can make the difference as we discuss and debate this important legislation."
– Maryland Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, sponsor of legislation to replace Maryland’s death penalty with life without parole
Participate in our Sabbath observance dedicated to ending the death penalty on the weekend of January 24-25, 2009 by talking about the death penalty during your services. Churches, synagogues and mosques across Maryland will take part.
Show support by being present at a press conference by the Interfaith Coalition to End the Death Penalty at First and Saint Stephen’s United Church of Christ, 6915 York Road in Towson on January 13 at 2 p.m.
Host an event at your place of worship. Maryland Citizens Against State Executions (MDCASE) can provide speakers for your event.
Find resources for a Sabbath observance at www.mdcase.org/faith. Materials include scripture passages, sermon ideas, a bulletin insert and more.
Call, write or email your state legislators to urge them to vote for repeal of the death penalty. You can find your state legislators at www.mdelect.net or call 800-492-7122. You can send an automatic email to your legislators at www.mdcase.org.
Invite a MDCASE organizer to set up a table at your congregation and help spread the word.
To participate in any of the above activities, or for more information, contact:
Tim Hanavan, Central Maryland Ecumenical Council: 410-467-6194; CMECOffice@aol.com