Is The Death Penalty Un-Christian


File 20170427 15084 m8jrz
Kurt Morrow, CC BY-NC

Mathew Schmalz
College of the Holy Cross

Arkansas executed a fourth prisoner on death row last night. Three days prior to that, the state had done two back-to-back executions by lethal injections in Lincoln County, Arkansas. Four other executions have been blocked by court order. The Conversation

As a Catholic scholar who writes about religion, politics and policy, I understand how Christians struggle with the death penalty – there are those who cannot endure the idea and there are others who support its use. Some Christian theologians have also observed that capital punishment could lead to the conversion of criminals who might repent of their crimes when faced with the finality of death.

Is the death penalty anti-Christian?

The two sides

In its early centuries, Christianity was seen with suspicion by authorities. Writing in defense of Christians who were unfairly charged with crimes in second-century Rome, philosopher Anthenagoras of Athens condemned the death penalty when he wrote that Christians “cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly.”

But as Christianity became more connected with state power, European Christian monarchs and governments regularly carried out the death penalty until its abolition in the 1950s through the European Convention on Human Rights. In the Western world, today, only the United States and Belarus retain capital punishment for crimes not committed during wartime.

Support for the death penalty is falling worldwide. World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, CC BY-SA

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Survey, support for the death penalty is falling worldwide. However, in the United States a majority of white Protestants and Catholics are in favor of it.

In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 21:12 states that “whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, however, rejects the notion of retribution when he says “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

While it is true that the Hebrew Bible prescribes capital punishment for a variety of offenses, it is also true that later Jewish jurists set out rigorous standards for the death penalty so that it could be used only in rare circumstances.

Support for death penalty

At issue in Christian considerations of the death penalty is whether the government or the state has the obligation to punish criminals and defend its citizens.

Saint Paul, an early Christian evangelist, wrote in his letter to the Romans that a ruler acts as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The Middle Ages in Europe saw thousands of murderers, witches and heretics put to death. While church courts of this period generally did not apply capital punishment, the church did turn criminals over to secular authorities for execution.

Thirteenth-century Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas argued that the death penalty could be justified for the greater welfare of society. Later Protestant reformers also supported the right of the state to impose capital punishment. John Calvin, a Protestant theologian and reformer, for example, argued that Christian forgiveness did not mean overturning established laws.

The case against

The deterrence value of capital punishment remains an issue of debate. In the United States, there are also strong arguments that capital punishment is unfairly applied, especially to African-Americans.

Among Christian leaders, Pope Francis has been at the forefront of arguing against the death penalty. Saint John Paul II also maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.”

Pope Francis observes that the death penalty is no longer relevant because modern prisons prevent criminals from doing further harm.

Pope Francis speaks of a larger ethic of forgiveness. He emphasizes social justice for all citizens as well as the opportunity for those who harm society to make amends through acts that affirm life, not death.

Jesus’ message was of forgiveness. Brandon, CC BY-SA

Jesus’ admonition to forgive one’s enemies is often thought to do away with the “law of the talion,” or an “eye for an eye” retribution – a standard that goes as far back as the prebiblical Code of Hammurabi – a law code of ancient Mesopotamia.

For many, the debate is about the relationship between Christ’s call for forgiveness and the legitimate powers of the state.

Those Christians who support capital punishment argue that Jesus was talking about heavenly realities, not the earthly matters that governments have to deal with. Christians who oppose the death penalty say that being Christian means bringing heavenly realities to the here and now.

This debate is not just about capital punishment, but about what it means to be a Christian.

Mathew Schmalz, Associate Professor of Religion, College of the Holy Cross

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

International Women’s Day – March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day

March 8, 2017

International Women’s Day  is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed since in the early 1900’s – a time of great expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and the rise of radical ideologies. International Women’s Day is a collective day of global celebration and a call for gender parity. No one government, NGO, charity, corporation, academic institution, women’s network or media hub is solely responsible for International Women’s Day. Many organizations declare an annual IWD theme that supports their specific agenda or cause, and some of these are adopted more widely with relevance than others.

“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights,” says world-renowned feminist, journalist and social and political activist Gloria Steinem. Thus International Women’s Day is all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continue’s to grow from strength to strength.

Learn about the values that underpin and guide IWD’s ethos.

The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law Holds Workshop

December 14, 2016

Washington – The International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law (IIJ), with grant funding from the United States, hosted a global workshop in Valletta, Malta on December 12-13, 2016, on efforts to address prison radicalization. Prison officials from a number of countries and representatives from international organizations and NGOs compared notes on global and regional trends regarding radicalization to violence in prisons. They reviewed and discussed a range of reference tools, which included handbooks as well as good practices and recommendations documents aimed at addressing prison radicalization that have been developed over the past two years by international experts. They also shared specific experiences and insights related to prison radicalization, such as risk assessments, housing of terrorist inmates, and rehabilitation.

Representatives from Algeria, France, Italy, Ireland, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Netherlands, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Niger, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States attended. Experts from Penal Reform International, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, the Global Center on Cooperative Security, and the International Counterterrorism Center – The Hague also participated.

Research into the causes of violent extremism has shown that prisons often play an important role as incubators of radicalization for disenfranchised individuals. Some of the terrorists who played a role in recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Copenhagen, and Brussels may have been radicalized to violence while in prison. Through this global workshop and subsequent regional events, we seek to promote the knowledge and use of numerous recently-developed reference tools that provide examples and guidance on how to mitigate, detect, and address prison radicalization and recruitment. In addition, these workshops will help underscore that sound prison policies and procedures can help minimize opportunities for recruitment within prisons and help prison officials to deal effectively with radicalization within their facilities. Finally, this workshop consolidates information that may have been presented at previous workshops and training sessions focused on the management and rehabilitation of terrorist inmates.

Custer Free Press Celebrates Successful One Year Online Presence

Custer, SD – Custer Free started publishing news online December 11, 2015 among the first articles: NASA Astronaut Kelly Lindgren Safely Returns to Earth. Since then we have published 1,027 articles. Today Sunday, December 11, 2016, Custer Free stats from December 11, 2015 – December 11, 2016 show 57,390 views averaging 2 1/2 pages per visit, with a total of 25,027 unique visitors. This does not include total Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google plus stats, or people who have bookmarked the site.These are actual counts for one year, not cumulative counts over several years.
Counts are important to advertisers and Custer Free As a result of these positive counts, Custer Free has been funded through January 2018.

Having owned an Auction Company and Antique Business among other ventures, the reality of success always presents itself in simple terms. Do people need your service, will they be repeat customers and will they tell others about your service. Having seen the one year results, for Custer Free it’s yes to all of the above.

A planned aggressive marketing schedule starting in February 2017 targeting the tourist trade will increase our visibility on-line resulting in a substantial increase in site viewership and advertiser exposure.

Custer Free is a non-subscription Local, National, International news site with verifiable news. All press releases are published with minimal edits and run full length with occasional additional comment by the editor of Custer Free

Thank You For Your Continued Support
Herb Ryan
Custer Free

Zonta of The Southern Black Hills Seeks Grant Applications From Community Organizations

Custer, SD – July 28, 2016 – Zonta of the Southern Black Hills is asking to hear from local community organizations in need of funds.

Every year, Zonta of the Southern Black Hills donates to a number of local organizations, all benefiting women in the community, with proceeds from the chapter’s monthly planner and Custer business telephone directory. In the past, organizations such as Women Escaping A Violent Environment, the Storehouse, Mammo or Bust, the Custer Library, the Hermosa American Legion’s Girls State program and Girls In Science have all received a donation from the Zonta chapter. Over $60,000 has been given away in Zonta’s 21 year history to organizations and groups benefiting women in the community.

However, this year, the chapter will receive grant applications.

“In the past, we had granted funds through applications, as well as selected organizations and groups that we think deserve funds to continue with their mission,” said Carrie Moore, Zonta Club of the Southern Black Hills president. “This year, we look forward to continuing the process of granting a number of groups and organizations with a donation to help with their mission based on their application. Now we can include organizations our club is not aware of.”

Organizations, groups and people who wish to receive a grant should submit a short request detailing the organization and its projects, as well as the amount of funds needed to fulfill the project(s) and how the organization/project benefits women in the Custer and Southern Black Hills community.

All submissions must benefit women, which coincides with Zonta’s mission to empower and help women. Proceeds from the fundraiser are open to organizations in the Southern Black Hills, including Custer, Hermosa, Hill City, Keystone, Hot Springs and Edgemont.
Requests may be emailed to or mailed to P.O. Box 28 Custer, S.D., 57730. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, Aug. 31. Members of Zonta of the Southern Black Hills’ service dollar committee will look over the submissions and alert the organization of their selection, with funds to be given away at the end of September.

TechGirls From the Middle East and North Africa Invest in STEM Futures

Teenage girls from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Territories, and Tunisia will participate in the U.S. Department of State’s TechGirls exchange program from July 12-August 3. During their three weeks in the United States, participants will strengthen and develop technical skills, form invaluable networks, and establish relationships with mentors that will influence their future tech careers. The TechGirls initiative empowers girls around the world to challenge perceptions of women by becoming leaders in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.

The 27 TechGirls will attend leadership and project management workshops and clinics in Washington, DC and at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. The teens will also participate in iD TechCamp, an interactive technology and computer camp at American University, and complete community service projects. Top leaders in the tech industry from the United States and the Middle East and North Africa will mentor the girls throughout the program.

The State Department and program partner Legacy International have teamed up with both public and private sector partners for this year’s TechGirls program, including: AT&T, Girls Who Code, 18F, Facebook, TechChange, Islamic Relief, VOX Media, the Federal Communications Commission, Nokia, Byte Back, NES Associates, and iStrategyLabs.

TechGirls exchange alumnae, now totaling more than 100, have utilized the program’s lessons to train more than 2,300 peers in their home countries. The achievements of these alumnae and the talent of the incoming class contribute to the U.S. global commitment to advance the rights of women and girls around the world, as well as STEM education.

Join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #TechGirls.