Oklahoma bishop signs letter opposing capital punishment as state resumes executions – Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service] Oklahoma Bishop Poulson Reed signed a statement with other Christian leaders in the state opposing a state court’s decision to set execution dates for 25 prisoners on death row over the next two years .

In an email to the diocese Nov. 14, Reed noted that he rarely speaks on public policy issues, only doing so when a local matter “has serious implications and can be illuminated by the teachings of the Bible and of the Episcopal Church”.

Reed acknowledged that Oklahoma Episcopalians have a wide range of views on execution and said that while he respects the differing opinions, he hopes everyone will read it and engage with it,
adding that his position is “not overly partisan, but is deeply rooted in Christian theology.”

The letter signed by Reed outlines a biblical argument against execution in general, citing passages from Genesis to the Epistles.

“As Christians and Oklahomans, we are very concerned about this action. Given the current reality of our state’s criminal justice system, our shared beliefs about the sanctity of human life and the proper functioning of state power lead us to call for an immediate moratorium on the death penalty in Oklahoma,” the letter reads.

It also includes statistics on the number of wrongfully convicted prisoners who end up on death row, some of whom were not exonerated until after their execution. Over the past 50 years, 190 former death row inmates in the United States have been cleared of all charges related to the convictions that led them there, including 10 in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

“As Christians who worship an unjustly executed Savior, we face a serious moral question: How many innocent people are we willing to kill to maintain our practice of capital punishment? asks for the letter. “We cannot imagine Jesus wanting us to sacrifice even one innocent life to preserve such a system.”

The letter also cites research indicating that people of color are more likely to be executed, with “cases involving white victims ‘significantly more likely to end in a death sentence than cases involving non-white victims’.” It also contradicts some of the arguments for execution, such as the claim that it deters violent crime.The Death Penalty Information Center has compiled studies that refute this claim.

Bishop Poulson Reed. Photo: Diocese of Oklahoma

Reed is one of the original 26 signatories of the letter, including Roman Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; Roman Catholic Bishop David Konderla of the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma; the Reverend Nathan Carr, vicar of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City; pastors of other mainstream and evangelical churches; and secular community leaders. He has now amassed dozens of additional signatures from clergy and citizens across the state.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals set execution dates for 25 prisoners in July – out of 44 on death row – in response to a request from Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor in June. The state suspended executions in 2015 after two botched executions drew national attention. Charles Warner, still conscious during his execution, shouted: “My body is on fire. Clayton Lockett writhed for 43 minutes before dying of a heart attack.

In 2020, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections said it had made changes to the protocols for its lethal three-drug injections “to ensure that what happened in the past won’t happen again.” . In 2021, the state executed John Marion Grant, who convulsed and vomited before dying.

So far, the state has carried out two of its scheduled executions, the most recent of Brian Cole, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and mentally incapacitated, according to his lawyers. Several other death row inmates have maintained their innocence, including Richard Glossip, whose lawyer has requested a stay of execution on the basis of new evidence.

The Episcopal Church first expressed its formal opposition to the execution at the 1958 General Convention and called on Episcopalians to urge their state governments to end the practice. The General Convention reiterated its opposition in 1979, 1991, 2000, 2015 and 2018, when it called for all death row inmates to have their sentences reduced. In 2019, when then-Attorney General Bill Barr announced the Trump administration’s intention to carry out executions for the first time since 2003, the church’s Washington-based government relations office , released a statement reiterating the church’s position that “the sanctity of life demands that no individual or group of individuals have the right to take the life of another person unnecessarily.

“The taking of human life may be necessary in self-defense and war, but as retaliation for even the most heinous crimes, it is not justified,” the statement said.

– Egan Millard is associate editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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