A “major initiative” is in the works to unite religious organizations to abolish executions in Ohio.
Kevin Werner, executive director of Ohioans to Stop Executions, announced, “What you’re going to see is a lively and invigorated campaign from the faith communities in Ohio to repeal the death penalty.”
“When we’re looking across the region, Ohio behaves like a Deep South state when it comes to the death penalty. It sticks out like a sore thumb,” Werner said. “We are very outside the norm for traditional Midwest values.”
He said the time is right to gather support from faith communities as more and more issues are being raised about the death penalty in Ohio.
A death-penalty task force formed by the Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio State Bar Association is set to wrap up its review of the state’s system this fall.
Ohio has executed fifty-two inmates since 1976, ranking it eighth among the states. Among other Midwestern states, Indiana has executed twenty inmates since 1976, Nebraska and South Dakota have executed three each, and Kansas has not executed any. Illinois executed twelve before abolishing the death penalty in 2011.
Reverend Will Mebane, chairman of the Ohioans to Stop Executions board, said he has been encouraged by recent work from the state task force. “While it seems like an impossible challenge, that it is pushing a boulder up a hill, I continue to be encouraged,” said Mebane. “We shouldn’t be killing people. However, the rest of the state is not where I am, where I hope we will be, and I believe with all my heart that we will be, and we will be one day soon.”
Jack Chomsky, cantor at Congregation Tifereth Israel, said he wishes that more of his colleagues would raise their voices about Jewish tradition, which is against the death penalty. “Hopefully, the work that we do today will help us find some people who are crazy about this issue in a very sane way so that we can stop this insanity in our state,” he said.
Jerald Freewalt, of the Office for Social Concerns at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, said he is optimistic that the death penalty will be abolished as more people recognize the problems. “No matter who you are and what you’ve done, human life is sacred,” he said. “I just hope that we can all come together and work as a community of faith to reach out to victims and their families, and to inmates and their families, and build more of a community based on love and hope.”
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