Suspend the Death Penalty in NH--The Bishop's Statement

NOTE:  Senate Bill 463, in the NH Legislature, proposes to suspend the implementation of the death penalty until it can be ensured that it is not being imposed on innocent people. The NH State Senate will debate and vote on SB 463 on Thursday, March 3, 2016. The following is Bishop Hirschfeld's statement, shared as a Letter to the Editor for NH newspapers:

As the Senate deliberates SB 463, we can reasonably expect its members to consider carefully the strong reasons for the suspension of the Death Penalty in New Hampshire. These reasons range from capital punishment’s limited value as a deterrent to its exorbitant expense to the state in legal appeals to the many moral and religious proscriptions against the state taking human life.  All of the arguments against state-sponsored homicide are gaining traction across our nation, indeed, throughout the world, as more and more states and nations are suspending, if not outright eliminating, its practice.

Christians who observe Lent are moving closer to Good Friday, the solemn day when we contemplate, among other things, the futility of a public execution to accomplish its supporters’ intended and short-sighted goals. The Christian convert Simone Weil, studying violence during the one of the most blood-soaked decades of the twentieth century, wrote: “Without room for reflection there is also no room for prudence and justice.”

Put in this context, SB463 is about more than the death penalty, more than a request to ensure ample room for reflection before making the only decision that cannot be revoked.  As well, this bill is a call to reclaim eroding civic dignity in a time of rampant and impetuous rage that is infecting and damaging the body of our society.  It is a call for civic restraint and increased protection from the rage-fueled impulsiveness that threatens to destroy the soul of this great state and nation.

The Right Reverend A. Robert Hirschfeld, Bishop, Episcopal Church of NH