By Nikki Suzani
WASHINGTON DC – After 17 years, the Trump administration is restarting federal execution in July—and faith leaders are not happy.
On July 7, a joint statement signed by over 1,000 faith leaders globally—representing faiths from Roman Catholic to Jewish to Buddhist, protested the continuation of the executions.
The statement specifically speaks out against the July and August executions, and calls for a halt in carrying out the death penalty, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crises, and systemic racism in the system as issues to be focusing on instead.
“As an Evangelical, I am heartbroken to see our country return to killing its citizens. We have seen so much death in recent months and people are hurting. Restarting executions during a pandemic should be the farthest thing from our minds,” said Carlos Malavé, Executive Director of Christian Churches Together.
The church believes that just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation,” Bishop Richard Pates added. “Executions only perpetuate a deeply flawed and broken system that is counter to the Gospel call to honor the dignity of all human life.”
The three executions, of Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, and Dustin Honken are scheduled for July 13, 15, and 17 respectively, as well as Keith Nelson’s on August 28. All are cases that have gone through the appeal process for years, but have now been officially scheduled under the Trump administration.
In fact, Lee’s execution was initially scheduled for last December, but controversy surrounding the governments’ lethal injection protocol (one drug instead of the three typically used by states) delayed it.
And the faith leaders aren’t the only ones protesting the executions. Thousands of Catholics, 150 law enforcement professionals, and 175 murder victims’ families—including Earlene Peterson, the grandmother of Lee’s murder victims—have all signed petitions protesting the executions.
However, since the appeals court ruled in April that the executions could continue, there have been no other delays. The ball is in the Trump administration’s court, and, with only a few days left, it looks like the executions are going forward, say observers.
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