Simon Cooper of the Yale Politic just published an article describing the increasing opposition to the death penalty from all faiths and political persuasions:
Two bishops, an imam, a rabbi, a reverend, and the president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America walk into the Kennedy Center. This is not the beginning of a micro-aggression laden joke, but rather the beginning of an innovative panel, Deadman Walking: Religious Leaders Dialogue on the Death Penalty, that aimed to display unity across faiths and political affiliations in the midst of an unprecedentedly polarized time in American public discourse. The religious leaders had gathered to discuss their shared ambition to abolish the death penalty.
The religious leaders are not alone in their opposition. Since its zenith at approximately seventy-five percent of the population in the mid-1990s, support for the death penalty among both political liberals and conservatives has eroded by 20 percentage points according to Gallup.
I was interviewed for this article in order to give insight into the growing conservative push to repeal the death penalty. Simon wrote,
Marc Hyden of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty is also not particularly concerned about the effects of the current political climate on his coalition’s work to end capital punishment.
Hyden asserts that nothing has changed for him, and cautions against looking at some polls as they can be misleading. Many national polls do not tell respondents that there is an alternative to the death penalty. Hyden points to polls in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Oklahoma which show that most people would repeal the death penalty if they knew they could replace it.
Hyden also pointed out that although President Trump and his then-nominee for Attorney General, Jefferson Sessions, are both pro-capital punishment, so were President Obama and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Both Hyden and Clifton agree that effective anti-capital punishment reform takes place at the state and local level more often than not, and both maintain that their respective groups, Catholics, and conservatives have strong reasons, including inefficacy, cost, and pro-life religious tenets, to oppose the death penalty to an even greater extent in the future.
This last objection of both Clifton’s Catholic Mobilization Network and Hyden’s Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty – that the penalty contravenes the pro-life tenets of their organizations’ morality and religion – is gaining considerable traction in conservative circles.
“Some people believe in a consistent life ethic so from conception to natural death all life should be protected. Others believe that we should only be safeguarding innocents,” explained Hyden. “My view is that no matter what kind of pro-life philosophy you subscribe to the death penalty is in violation of that because it’s not always right.”
But there are other conservative reasons to oppose the death penalty:
“My feelings on fiscal responsibility in government have also been a driving force. I like government limited in scope,” said Hyden. “I can’t imagine a bigger power to give the government than one that says you can go ahead and kill your citizens.”
“Americans don’t want another big government program that doesn’t work,” said Hyden.