Five Kansas religious leaders representing nearly 700,000 Kansans of faith presented members of the Legislature with a call to end capital punishment.
A letter signed by more than 430 faith leaders asking for repeal of the death penalty was presented by:
• The Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ecclesial Province of Kansas;
• The Right Rev. Dean E. Wolfe, Ninth Bishop of Kansas, the Episcopal Diocese in Kansas;
• The Rev. Leonard Dale, director of evangelical mission for the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
• The Rev. Kay Scarbrough, Topeka district superintendent, Great Plains, United Methodist Church;
• The Rev. Peter Goerzen, Western District Conference of the Mennonite Church USA and campus pastor of Bethel College.
“We know capital punishment is wrong. Even our youngest children know it is wrong to take a human life,” said Bishop Wolfe. Wolfe said the Episcopal Church opposes the death penalty also because it is ineffective, prejudiced and unjust.
“Society in general, and the church in particular, has a responsibility to surround with compassion and support the families of murder victims,“ said Archbishop Naumann, whose father was murdered. And the high cost of the death penalty, three to four times as expensive as non-death penalty murder cases, diminishes the state’s ability to participate in that capacity. “These resources can be better used to assist the families of victims,” Naumann said.
“Human beings are fallible and the execution of an innocent person is a mistake that cannot be corrected,” said the Rev. Dale. There have been 150 people exonerated since 1973, overturning previous convictions that sent them to death row.
House Bill 2129, which would replace the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, gives the Legislature the opportunity to protect society without killing.
The death penalty only contributes to the culture of violence, the Rev. Goerzen said. “The death penalty cheapens justice by trading its noble claims for those with a much different desire: retribution. Justice puts an end to cycles of violence with restoration and healing while retribution merely continues the cycles of our murderous desire.”
Rep. Steven Becker, R-Buhler, who introduced the bill, received the letter saying, “Three weeks ago Kansas was called the most pro-life state in America. That cannot be true. That cannot be true as long as the death penalty is in the pages of our law books.”
Becker was joined on the podium by Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, and Rep. William Sutton, R-Gardner.
Haley called repeal “a call to action for common sense.” He echoed statements challenging the morality of the death penalty saying, “We are bigger than that. We are better than that … because Kansas first and foremost is a moral state.”
The Rev. Kay Scarbrough, Topeka district superintendent, Great Plains, United Methodist Church, said the death penalty “denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. All of us are diminished when our state punishes in this way.”