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Iowa faith leaders speak out against calls to enact death penalty

January 31, 2018   |   Connie Ryan, Iowa View contributor

Larry Greene, public information director of the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, demonstrates how a curtain is pulled between the death chamber and witness room at the prison in Lucasville, Ohio. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato, AP)

It is with heavy hearts that we come together as one voice to speak up and stand against the introduction of the death penalty in Iowa.

For many reasons, based on the spectrum of our faiths and religious traditions we represent as well as the clear societal concerns surrounding the implementation of the death penalty, we fervently oppose the death penalty and ask you as elected officials to oppose it as well.

We come with heavy hearts because our beloved Iowa is considering legislation we know to be wrong, immoral and contrary to the facts that have become so apparent across the nation.

The data and facts are clear. The implementation of the death penalty is influenced by the racial undertones of our nation’s history. African American men are adversely and disproportionately impacted. They are more likely to be given the death penalty upon conviction, especially if the victim is white. This alone is argument enough against the death penalty, but we have additional concerns.

We, along with most Americans, are concerned about innocent people being sentenced to death. Seven of 10 adults believe there is a risk an innocent person will be put to death. Fifty percent of Americans say minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for the same crime. Between 1973 and 2015, 153 innocent people were exonerated with evidence of their innocence and released from death row.

We, along with most Americans, understand the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. States with the lowest murder rates do not have the death penalty, while states with the highest murder rates do have the death penalty. A 2009 poll found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime and the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money to deter crime.

We, along with most Americans, know the cost of implementing the death penalty is too high a price to pay in terms of our scarce public dollars. In Oklahoma, capital cases cost on average 3.2 times more than non-capital cases. In a state like Iowa that is unable to adequately fund basic, public services such as PK-12 and higher education or provide basic protections for children and the least of those among us, we have no business adding the unnecessary costs of implementing the death penalty.

The use of the death penalty by states is on the decline. Seven states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware. Multiple states have placed a suspension or moratorium on executions. Only five states accounted for all executions in 2016 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri and Texas), which tells us other states understand the death penalty is not a fair or reasonable action for a state to take. Iowa has not had the death penalty since 1965.

We, along with most Americans, do not support the death penalty. A 2010 poll found 61% of voters would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder.

At its core, our opposition to the death penalty is based in our faith traditions that inform our beliefs on what is right and wrong and what we must stand against on behalf of our faith and human rights. Our collective faiths compel us to use our voices to declare the death penalty wrong and immoral. The government should not kill a human being as retribution or punishment, regardless of the person’s actions.

As faith leaders and clergy across the state, we implore you to stand with us and say no to allowing the death penalty in Iowa. It is unfair, unnecessary, ineffective and morally wrong.

Connie Ryan, Executive Director, Interfaith Alliance of Iowa

Bishop Laurie Haller, Iowa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Alan Scarfe, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa

Bishop Michael L Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Steven L. Ullestad, Northeastern Iowa Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Bishop Richard Pates, Bishop of Des Moines

Rev. Bill Spangler-Dunning, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Upper Midwest

Rev. Brigit Stevens, Executive Conference Minister, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ

Rev. Tim Button-Harrison, District Executive Minister, Northern Plains District, Church of the Brethren

Stated Clerk, Dr. Rebecca Blair, Presbytery of Eastern Iowa

The Rev. Wendy K Abrahamson, Episcopal Church, Grinnell

Reverend Randy Allman, Disciples of Christ, Story City

Rev. Michael Amadeo, Catholic, Des Moines

Sister Lou Anglin, Catholic, Dubuque

The Reverend Laura Arnold, United Church of Christ, Decorah

Reverend Ryan Arnold, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Fr. Robert J. Aubrey, Roman Catholic, Des Moines

Rev. Dean Baer, ELCA, Des Moines

Rev. Phil Barrett, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Atlantic

Rabbi Emily Barton, Jewish, Des Moines

Rev. Dr. Beverlee Bell, United Methodist, Urbandale 

Reverend William Bernau, ELCA, Des Moines

Reverend Alice Bolen, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), West Des Moines

Rev. Dr. Ramona Bouzard, Lutheran Christian, Waverly

Sister Mary Anne Bradish, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Mr. Tom Bradley, Catholic, Johnston

Rev. Brad Braley, Presbyterian Church (USA), Cedar Falls

Rev. Candice Brown, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Rev. Wallace Bubar, Presbyterian Church USA, Des Moines

Rev. Patricia Buck, Disciples of Christ, Indianola

Reverend Tammy Buseman, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Marion

Reverend Sheryl Butler, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Glenwood

Reverend Mary Jane Button-Harrison, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Ames

The Rev Dr Elaine Caldbeck, The Episcopal Church, Bettendorf 

Rev. Jill Cameron Michel, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Coralville

Sister Deanna Carr, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Alice Caufield, Catholic, Dubuque

Pastor John Chaplin, United Church of Christ (UCC), Des Moines

Sister Dorothy Ann Chevalier, Roman Catholic, Johnston

Reverend Dick Clark, Christian, United Methodist, Urbandale

Reverend Kathleen Clark, United Methodist, Des Moines

The Rev. Mary Cole-Duvall, Episcopal, West Des Moines

Rev Paul Collier, Presbyterian Church (USA), Mason City

Sister Mary Donard Collins, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Elizabeth Colton, United Church of Christ, Oskaloosa

Sister Margaret Mary Cosgrove, Catholic, Dubuque 

Priest Karen Crawford, Episcopalian, Newton

Rev. Robert Crenshaw, Christian Church (DOC), Des Moines

Sister Mary Crimmin, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. McKinna Daugherty, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Altoona

The Rev Maureen Doherty, Episcopal, Waverly

Sister Pat Donahoe, Catholic, Dubuque

Father John Dorton, Catholic, Des Moines

Sister Catherine Dunn, Catholic, Dubuque

The Reverend Thomas Early, Episcopal, Spirit Lake

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Epting, The Episcopal Church, Coralville 

Rev. Emily E. Ewing, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Urbandale

The Rev Joan Farstad, Episcopal, Waverly

Sister of Charity BVM Mary Jean Ferry, Catholic, Dubuque

Reverend Timothy Fitzgerald, Roman Catholic, Altoona

Reverend Abraham L. Funchess, Jr., Christianity, Waterloo

Pastor Frederick Gaddy, African Methodist Episcopal, Des Moines 

The Rev. Andrew Gangle, Lutheran, Des Moines 

The Rev. Eileen Gebbie, United Church of Christ, Ames

Postulant and Seminarian Lizzie Gillman, Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Des Moines

Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Theresa Gleeson, Catholic, Dubuque

Reverend Debbie Griffin, Christian Church Disciples of Christ, Des Moines

Pastoral Care Barbara Gross, Catholic, Des Moines

Father Ken Gross, Catholic, West Des Moines

Rev. Chester Guinn, United Methodist, Des Moines

Reverend Eric Guy, United Methodist, Des Moines

Sister Teri Hadro, BVM Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Elaine Hagedorn, Catholic, Des Moines

Sister Marilyn Jean Hagedorn, Catholic, Des Moines

Rev Suzanne Hall Stout, Disciples of Christ, Des Moines

Retired Clergy Dale Hanaman, United Methodist, Rippey

Sister Brigid Mary Hart, Catholic, Dubugue

The Reverend Alice Haugen, Episcopalian, Durant

Sister C Jean Hayen, BVM Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Anita Therese Hayes, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Mary Healey, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Eileen Healy, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Kate Hendel, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Susan Hendershot Guy, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Rev. Rich Hendricks, Metropolitan Community Churches, Davenport

Reverend Deborah Hill-Davis, Christian, Ames

Rev. Dr. Mark Holmer, Episcopal, Algona

The Rev. Raisin Horn, Episcopal, Davenport

Rev. Sheryl Hughes-Empke, Episcopal, Des Moines

Rev Carlos Jayne, United Methodist, Des Moines

Sister Virginia Jennings, Catholic, Dubuque

Reverend Jonna Jensen, United Church of Christ, Baldwin

Rev. Patricia Johnson, Episcopalian, Sioux City

Reverend Paul Johnson, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

The Reverend Wayne Kamm, Christian Episcopal, Mt. Pleasant

Rabbi Henry Karp, Reform Judaism, Davenport

Rev. Kirsten Klepfer, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Grinnell

The Rev. Daniel Kuckuck, ELCA, Urbandale

Rev Carmen Lampe Zeitler, American Baptist, Des Moines

Rev. Martha Lang, Christian-Episcopalian, Muscatine

Deacon Angela Larson Christian, ELCA Lutheran, Des Moines

Postulant Jennifer Latham, Episcopal, Grinnell

Rev James Laurenzo, Catholic, Des Moines

Sister Kathryn Lawlor, Catholic, Dubuque

Reverend  Kristine Leaman, Episcopal, Clermont

Sister Lynn Lester, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Louise Levandowski, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Nathan Liedtke, ELCA (Lutheran), Norwalk

Sister Joanne Marie Lucid, Catholic, Dubuque

Father John Ludwig, Roman Catholic, Norwalk

Sister LaDonna Manternach, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Matthew Mardis-LeCroy, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Pastor Sam Massey, Presbyterian Church USA, Iowa City

Sister Virginia MCaffrey, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Sara McAlpin, Catholic, Dubuque

The Reverend Jean McCarthy, Episcopal Church, Des Moines

Sister Mary McCauley, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Barbara McCaulley, Episcopal, Mason City

Rev. Kent McKusick, Unitarian Universalist, Ames

Sister Bernadette McManigal, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Russell J. A. Melby, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ames

Rev. Richard Miller, PCUSA, Davenport

The Rev. Rachel Thorson Mithelman, ELCA, Des Moines

Reverend (Retired) Vernon Naffier, Lutheran (ELCA), Des Moines

Reverend Liane Nichols, Episcopalian, Cedar Falls

The Rev. Mary Jane Oakland, Episcopal, Ames

Reverend Patricia Adams Oberbillig, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

The Rev. Christopher Olkiewicz, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Windsor Heights

Sister MaryThea O'Meara, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Julie O'Neill, BVM Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Marcellla O'Rourke, BVM Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Stephen Orr, Catholic, Ankeny

Pastor Paul Ostrem, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Iowa City

Reverend Lisa Parker, Lutheran – ELCA, Ankeny

Pastor Eric Pasanchin, Presbyterian Church (USA), Ankeny

The Rev. Douglas Peters, Christian (United Methodist), Iowa City

Reverend Jessica Petersen, United Church of Christ, Newton

The Rev. Suzanne Peterson, Episcopal, Des Moines

Father David Polich, Roman Catholic, Osceola

Sister Karen Pollard, Catholic, Dubuque

The Rev. Mary Pugh, Presbyterian – PCUSA, Blue Grass

Sister Regina Qualls, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Ann Quirk, Catholic, Dubuque

Pastoral Mininster Diane Rapozo, Roman Catholic, Dubuque

Rev Ruth Ratliff, Episcopal, Cedar Falls

Rev. Julia Rendon, United Church of Christ, Indianola

Sister Jacquely Rice, Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Sarai Rice, Presbyterian Church (USA), Des Moines

Sister Sandra Rodemyer, Roman Catholic, Urbandale

The Reverend Martha Rogers, Episcopal, Marion

Rev. Dr. David Ruhe, United Church of Christ, Des Moines

Rev. Dr. Pamela Saturnia, Presbyterian Church (USA), Muscatine

Reverend Holly Scherff, Episcopal, Shenandoah

Rev. Pamela Schroeder, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Ankeny

Rev Michele Scott, U.C.C., Cedar Rapids

Reverend Juanita Scriven, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Des Moines

Rev. David Sickelka, United Church of Christ, Urbandale

The Reverend Jeanie Smith, Episcopal, West Des Moines

The Reverend Larry Sonner, United Methodist, Des Mones

Pastor Patricia Stalter, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Woodward

Reverend Gayle Strickler, Jr., United Church of Christ, Grinnell

Reverend Joseph Stutler, Humanist, ULC, Marion

Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Rosemary Surby, Catholic, Dubuque

Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Barbara Jean Tascher, BVM Roman

Catholic, Dubuque

Rev. Cheryl Thomas, Christian and American Baptist, Des Moines

Reverend Alex Thornburg, Presbyterian, Clive

Postulant Zebulun Treloar, Episocopalian, Des Moines

Rev. Sarah Trone Garriott, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Windsor Heights

Reverend  Erika Uthe, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Iowa City

Baljit Singh Virdi, Sikhism, West Des Moines

Reverend Meg Wagner, The Episcopal Church, Cedar Rapids

Rev.  Benjamin Webb, Episcopalian, Des Moines

Sister Roberta White, Catholic, Dubuque 

Pastor Nathan Willard, United Church of Christ, Ankeny

Sister Elizabeth Wirtz, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Mary Janine Wolff, Catholic, Dubuque

Sister Mary Ellen Zimmermann, Catholic, Dubuque