Dozens of Maryland’s religious leaders met Wednesday in Annapolis for Religious Unity Day for Death Penalty Repeal, saying despite differences in faith, “on repeal of the death penalty, there is no equivocation.”
Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian, Lutheran, United Methodist, Muslim leaders, among others, joined to sign a letter asking legislators to finally put an end to the death penalty in Maryland. Every senator and delegate received an electronic copy of the letter.
“State-sponsored killing is not going to end the cycle of violence,” Maryland Episcopal Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton said.
House and Senate committees are scheduled to hear legislation next week that would make life without the possibility of parole the highest form of punishment in Maryland. Religious leaders are making a last-minute push to influence legislators who still find themselves on the fence to vote for the bill.
Sutton recalled civil rights leaders during his speech as examples that Marylanders should follow when considering the legality of the death penalty. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Class of Nonviolence: “We shall meet your physical force with soul force.”
“If (civil rights leaders) have taught us anything, it’s that a nonviolent response is still the most powerful weapon we have to deter the evil of violence,” Sutton said. “More powerful than the electric chair. More powerful than a lethal injection.”
The president of the Howard County Board of Rabbis, Rabbi Seth Bernstein, said that some may be hesitant to repeal the death penalty due to certain grave circumstances.
“One might approve the theory of the death penalty or attempt to justify to impose the death penalty,” Bernstein said. “However, if one accepts the premise that life is sacred, then the application of the death penalty becomes morally wrong.”
In their letter to the Maryland General Assembly, members of the religious community wrote that their opposition to the death penalty is not just rooted in their religious traditions.
“The death penalty fails us legally, morally, socially and economically,” the letter reads.