Thursday, December 6, 2007

Cities for Life and The Death Penalty in the News

On Friday, November 30th, the Community of Sant'Egidio, a worldwide Catholic movement (I lead the prayer group here at Georgetown) organized the fifth annual World Day of Cities for Life--Cities Against the Death Penalty. 700 cities across the world participate as a sign of their moral alliance against capital punishment. In many of these cities, symbolic monuments are illuminated as a sign of the city's commitment to bringing and end to the death penalty across the world. The Washington Community of Sant'Egidio gathered Friday night at St. Stephen Martyr Church in Foggy Bottom to participate in solidarity with the rest of the world in a "prayer for life in death row."

In other important news about the death penalty, the state of New Jersey is growing closer to becoming the first state to legislatively abolish capital punishment since it was reinstated by the Supreme Court thirty years ago. After a legislative committee heard testimony yesterday, eight Democrats in the state Senate Budget Committee gave majority approval to a measure to end the death penalty. The repeal will go before the entire Senate soon. Both Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts back this repeal, so it is expected that it will become law. Although it was before a budget panel, the debate focused heavily on questions of morality and deterrence. Many religious leaders and civil-rights activists spoke out in favor of the repeal.

What with the current staying of executions until the Supreme Court rules in the Baze v. Rees case, it is definitely a time of optimistic hope for opponents of capital punishment.

How do you think opponents of the death penalty can best act to bring an end to capital punishment? Do you identify more with principled nonviolent actions (à la the Community of Sant'Egidio) or do you think more pragmatic, legalistic methods are better? Or perhaps they work hand in hand.

1 comment:

Beth said...

I think they definitely go hand in hand, nonviolent activities and the legalistic route. The symbolic act of a city signing a commitment to bringing an end to the death penalty and the worldwide 'prayer for life in death row' only helps to the legitimize the legislative fight. From the perspective of a representative acting as a representative for the will of the people, these types of symbolic acts inform the congressman and give him/her credibility to vote against the death penalty. It would be interesting to see what kind of protests and actions have occurred in New Jersey before and during these recent developments!