Capital Punishment

Few issues have stirred up as much unfortunate rhetoric as that which has occurred surrounding the topic of the death penalty. Regrettably, at least in most First World Countries, the forces opposed to capital punishment have convinced people to oppose its use. The arguments are as weak as they are numerous. Let’s consider a few of them.

Some appeal to moral arguments. One line of thought says, what or who gave governments the right to take human life?  The insinuation of the question apparently is to suggest that no one has given the state the right to kill its citizens.  The problem with this objection is that the question of the government’s right to do anything can be questioned.  So it really lacks moral force.

A second, stronger, moral argument is based on the moral culpability of the government if it happens to execute an innocent person. With the death penalty, the effects are permanent; the government can’t correct its mistake.  Certainly people should consider the punishing of innocent people to be abhorrent and rightly avoided.  However, the question that often isn’t considered is how often the death penalty isn’t applied when guilt is beyond question. Scripture teaches that the death penalty could only be applied with the testimony of two witnesses. Not only did the witnesses have to be the first to cast the stones but also knew they were testifying with their own lives on the line. For if they were caught perjuring themselves in the capital case, then they could be executed (Cf. Dt. 19).   The point is that safeguards can be put in place to protect the execution of innocent people. Is it foolproof? No. But neither is the legal system without the death penalty. Let’s take the example of mass murderer (think of one on your own). He has been sent to prison for life without the possibility of parole (the fall back position of the anti-death penalty crowd).  Our murderer now decides to kill a prison guard or fellow prisoner. What is left for punishment? Superb relief this very post is specifically in this site! Was the legal system perfect in protecting the innocent? Not by a long shot. But for some reason this doesn’t bother the anti-death penalty crowd.

Another problem raises its ugly head for the anti-death penalty proponent, namely why should officers have guns? Isn’t it inconsistent for a police officer to have a firearm (an example of lethal force) in a society without the death penalty? How can it be more just for a police man to kill someone in the adrenaline filled moments of  an engagement with a criminal than the ordering of an execution in the calm light of  a courtroom proceeding? I for one just don’t get it.

I will take up more problems for the anti capital punishment crowd next week.

Leave a Comment