OPINION – Simply put, there is no humane way to end a human life.
They are all barbaric, even when court-sanctioned, and serve no purpose other than to exact revenge.
There is no evidence that indicates capital punishment acts as a deterrent, that the possibility of being executed by the state curbs the most violent crimes. Instead, it serves only one purpose: to fulfill the eye-for-an-eye mentality that exists within human nature.
The debate regarding the manner in which a state terminates life gained new fuel this last week when the Utah House narrowly passed a bill that would reinstitute the firing squad as an alternative means to execution in one of several bits of proposed legislation that would push the state deeper into a fundamentalist theocracy.
Read more: Firing squad bill passes the Utah House
There is growing opposition among the pharmaceutical industry to supply states with the three-drug cocktail that has been employed for years now to carry out the death penalty, citing that it can be ineffective and, as new studies indicate, inhumane.
So, Utah is now looking at alternative means to dispose of its most hardened criminals.
“We have to have an option,” Republican Rep. Paul Ray said during a news conference last Wednesday. “If we go hanging, if we go to the guillotine, or we go to the firing squad, electric chair, you’re still going to have the same circus atmosphere behind it. So is it really going to matter?”
Well, yes, it does.
The root of arguments that support the death penalty is that human life is precious, that it should be respected, that it should not be extinguished at the hands of another.
Yet, when it comes to dishing out penalties for those who take another’s life, that all goes out the window.
Except, here in Utah, arguably the most theocratic state in the nation, the arguments regarding capital punishment and the methods to carry it out, must be examined under a much broader light.
One of the underpinnings of the early Mormon faith was the belief in blood atonement as the only way to accurately redeem oneself for certain sins.
“There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins, and the smoking incense would atone for their sins,” Brigham Young said in 1856, reaffirming a belief offered down from church founder Joseph Smith.
Of course, at that time, Utah also had a law on the books allowing decapitation of those convicted of murder.
Over the years, the church has softened its position on blood atonement, as it has on polygamy, allowing blacks into the temple and attaining priesthood, and other matters of both social and legal relevance.
The Legislature is also contemplating a bill that would further enhance the state theocracy under the proposed Religious Liberty Recognition and Protection Act. Among other things, the bill would “establish that perfect toleration of religious sentiment is guaranteed and that rights of conscience shall never be infringed, as provided in the Utah Constitution” and would “require government and private individuals that impose a law or action that substantially burdens another’s religious liberty to balance certain requirements in order to lawfully enforce or recognize the law or action.”
Anti-polygamy activists have started a grassroots effort to quash the bill.
Sound Choices Coalition, the leading anti-polygamy group in Utah, issued the following statement: “We are concerned that LaVar Christensen’s current bill on religious freedom in the state of Utah may lead to unintended consequences by protecting extreme and abusive religious practices that are claimed as integral parts of various religious beliefs. We have already seen religion used as an excuse for the FLDS to not testify in a child labor case in Southern Utah. It is not out of the question that if such bills were to pass into law, they might pave the way for arguments in favor of religious law such as Sharia.”
So, Utah’s image in the world continues to take a beating.
Sure, it’s a great place if you want to ski, climb rocks, or explore wondrous national parks, but it’s not such a great place if you are a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, a person of color, or if you like to indulge in a real adult beverage instead of the 3.2 beer you find on the grocery store shelves, or tint your political ideology blue.
Utah cannot afford any more bad press.
While under the leadership of Jon Huntsman Jr., the state made some progress in upping its image. He had a handle on what was good for the people of the state – all people of the state.
Under his leadership, Utah was No. 1 in job growth, leveled an uneven tax system, boosted the lagging education system, bolstered the state’s environmental posture.
His impact as a leader was measurable and while there were political issues where we were ideologically light years apart, he ranked No. 1 on the decency level in my book, meaning he had the welfare of all at the heart of his administration.
His departure led to a backslide in leadership that trickled down to an already hapless Legislature that has been more focused on sustaining its office than feeding a state hungry for social, environmental, and political reform.
When a Legislature spends more time talking about how to kill people instead of preventing them from committing crimes that could result in a death sentence, something is wrong.
It is equally wrong when a Legislature spends more time as an apologist for a fundamental sect that the mainstream finds repulsive.
What the state needs now is new blood, not blood atonement.
- Firing squad bill passes the Utah House
- Execution by firing squad could return to Utah
- Judge considers motion that would remove death penalty option in double-murder case
- Defense fights death penalty option in murder case
- News short: Death penalty sought in 2010 double-murder case
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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