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US faith leaders unite to protest at new execution methods

15 March 2024

Louisiana Interfaith Against Executions/Facebook

A former Bishop of New Jersey, the Rt Revd Joe Doss, addresses a rally against the death penalty outside the Louisiana State Capitol, in Baton Rouge, last week

A former Bishop of New Jersey, the Rt Revd Joe Doss, addresses a rally against the death penalty outside the Louisiana State Capitol, in Baton Rouge, last week

CLERGY and other faith leaders have joined protests in Louisiana against new legislation to expand the state’s methods of execution.

The state is proposing to bring back the electric chair, and introduce a new method, injection with nitrogen hypoxia, which deprives the body of oxygen. The state of Alabama was the first to use this method earlier last month. Critics called its use cruel and experimental.

States are exploring different methods of execution because the usual drugs are becoming difficult to obtain as pharmaceutical companies block their use in executions. Support for the death penalty is also declining in the United States.

Executions in Louisiana have been on hold for 14 years, and almost 60 people are on death row in the state.

A rally was held outside the State Capitol, in Baton Rouge, by Louisiana Interfaith Against Executions, on 28 February, International Death Penalty Abolition Day. Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Jewish, and Buddhist demonstrators took part. A former Bishop of New Jersey, the Rt Revd Joe Doss, said: “Because our faith tradition calls us to value human life and dignity, justice, compassion, mercy, and the common good, we are compelled to speak out and reaffirm our opposition to the death penalty.”

Rabbi Phil Kaplan, of Congregation Beth Israel, said: “As a rabbi and religious Jew, I am personally opposed to the death penalty as it is currently carried out in the United States. But, more urgently, I am deeply opposed to and troubled by the introduction of gassing as a method of execution, which unmistakably and immediately evokes for millions of American Jews horrific memories of the depravities our ancestors endured at the hands of Nazi Germany, when lethal gas was used to mass-murder our people.

“For these reasons and many others, we, as a civilised society, should not resurrect this barbaric method of execution.”

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