All Catholics oppose death penalty and all Baptists favor it?

In the wake of the nation’s first executions since Oklahoma’s botched lethal injection, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an interesting story on a young Republican concerned about the death penalty:

Late Tuesday, as the clock approached midnight, Marcus Wellons rode to oblivion on a state-inserted needle, his punishment for the rape and murder of a young Cobb County neighbor 24 years ago.

That same day, Marc Hyden, a 30-year-old confirmed conservative Republican from Marietta, hopped a plane for Washington D.C. Today, he will open a booth at the fifth annual gathering of Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Hyden is a national coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, a two-year-old, GOP-based group that carries tea party suspicion of government into a new but highly logical arena:

If you don’t trust your government to deliver a piece of mail to your doorstep, how can you trust it to competently decide who lives and who dies?

To its credit, the Journal-Constitution recognizes that religion plays a role in this debate:

An extensive national survey conducted last year by Barna Group showed that 42 percent of Christian baby-boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, agreed that “government should have the option to execute the worst criminals.”

But among those born between 1980 and 2000, the approval rate dropped to 32 percent among self-identified Christians. Among actively practicing Christian millennials, only 23 percent approved of the death penalty.

Then comes this:

The religious connection is important, especially in terms of Georgia politics. An alliance between Southern Baptists and Catholics has been a large part of the success enjoyed by religious conservatives at the state Capitol when it comes to issues such as gay marriage or abortion.

But the death penalty divides the two denominations. Catholics oppose executions. Southern Baptists do not.

That last sentence assumes a lot. Is it really true that Catholics oppose executions, while Southern Baptists do not? Technically, the answer is probably yes.

From a Pew Research Center primer on religious groups’ official positions on the death penalty:

Catholicism

Although the Catechism of the Catholic Church sanctions the use of the death penalty as a last recourse, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly called for the abolition of capital punishment in the United States in all circumstances.

Southern Baptist Convention

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution in support of the fair and equitable use of capital punishment.

But do any Catholics support executions? In my time as religion editor for The Oklahoman, I remember writing about then-Gov. Frank Keating’s public clashes with Pope John Paul II on capital punishment.

And do any Southern Baptists oppose executions? A Pew survey report earlier this year noted:

Among most large U.S. religious groups, majorities support capital punishment. Roughly six-in-ten or more white evangelical Protestants (67%), white mainline Protestants (64%) and white Catholics (59%) express support for the death penalty.

By contrast, black Protestants are more likely to say they oppose the death penalty than support it (58% vs. 33%), as are Hispanic Catholics (54% vs. 37%).

Undoubtedly, the Journal-Constitution writer — who covers politics — is referring to official lobbying by denominations.

But IMHO, the blanket statements about Catholics and Southern Baptists don’t tell the whole story. It’s a bit more complicated.

Image via Shutterstock.com

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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.

  • helen

    It may said that “fair and equitable” use of the death penalty is hard to achieve.
    Efforts should be made to try harder. What I do not think is “fair or equitable” is leaving killers on death row for years and decades while the lawyers make work with appeals.
    Some of these people are really ‘not very nice’ (to put it mildly). Sympathy is generated for them with little thought to the victims of their crimes. Perhaps a picture of the person(s) they destroyed should be run beside theirs, whenever theirs is shown. Not a happy picture but one at the crime scene perhaps, to remind people.

    Those who generate it don’t investigate the effects on other citizens: the people who have to care for the inmate. For every death row inmate three or four others are, in a sense, incarcerated, too, although they may go home at the end of their shift. I wonder if that doesn’t exact a mental toll on the guards and whether that is “fair and equitable”.
    Have you ever seen an article from that angle?

  • dudleysharp

    It seems a bit odd that any Christian would oppose the death penalty.

    The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter?
    A Review of All Innocence Issues
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-death-penalty-do-innocents-matter.html

    The Death Penalty: Fair & Just
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/12/is-death-peanalty-fairjust.html

    New Testament Death Penalty Support Overwhelming
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2014/01/new-testament-death-penalty-support.html

  • dudleysharp

    A GOP based group?

    Really?

    CCATDP is owned and controlled by Equal Justice USA, a George Soros beneficiary.

    1) Few Conservatives Embrace Anti Death Penalty Deceptions
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/few-conservatives-embrace-anti-death.html

    “Some conservatives have morphed into anti death penalty advocates, displaying the common tendency of either blindly accepting false anti death penalty claims, with willful ignorance, or knowingly pushing deceptions, as does CCATDP, as detailed.”

    2) Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty: Just another dishonest anti death penalty group
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/concerned-conservatives-about-death.html

    “CCATDP is but another anti death penalty group, whose claims are, easily, rebutted and which was founded and funded by a long time, well known liberal anti death penalty group, Equal Justice USA, which is supported by George Soros.”

    3) DEAD WRONG: (Montana) Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (MCCATDP)
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/08/conservatives-concerned-about-death.html

    “Every point from the MCCATDP website (1) is false. It appears that MCCATDP has simply parroted anti death penalty frauds, with no effort at finding out if they were true. Quite irresponsible and common.”

    4) Rebuttal to Ron Paul at

    Few Conservatives Embrace Anti Death Penalty Deceptions
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/11/few-conservatives-embrace-anti-death.html

    “(Paul) has bought into the anti death penalty frauds, without fact checking them, a common liberal problem, now infecting some libertarians and conservatives.”

    5) Rebuttal to Richard A. Viguerie
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2013/10/rebuttal-to-richard-vigueries-when.html

    “Mr. Viguerie makes a very weak argument for repeal of the death penalty and he duplicates the many errors of those rare conservatives against the death penalty, who seem to embrace anti death penalty deceptions (1).”


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