Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
The storm over the Cameron Todd Willingham case has focused public
attention on the death penalty and stirred debate in the Texas governor's
race. Willingham was executed in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his
three children. He maintained until his death that he was innocent, and
evidence in the case presents a mixed picture. Several independent experts
have challenged whether it was arson. The governor and the prosecutor are
confident he was guilty.
In Texas, more than 400 people have been executed since capital punishment
was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Ours is the busiest death
chamber in the nation - and Texans overwhelmingly back the death penalty.
Polls indicate that nearly three-quarters of Texans support capital
What is the moral dimension? Supporters say the question is not whether
the state is justified in taking a life, but when - for example, in
self-defense or in order to save someone else's life. There is the
argument of deterrence. And justice - "an eye for an eye."
Opponents make two arguments: 1) the death penalty is immoral and 2) the
death penalty is flawed because an innocent person could be put to death.
So here's the question: Is it moral to support capital punishment? Or are Texans immoral because they support the death penalty?
The responses from our Texas Faith panelists are varied, provocative and well worth reading amid this political and faith-based debate:
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Everything has its proper utility, and a man who is situated in complete knowledge of the self knows how and where to apply a thing for its proper utility. Similarly, violence also has its utility, and how to apply violence rests with the person in full knowledge of the eternality of the self. Although the justice of the peace awards capital punishment to a person condemned for murder, the justice of the peace cannot be blamed, because he orders violence to another person according to the codes of justice. In the Vedic scriptures it is supported that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer for the great sin he has committed. Therefore, the government's punishment of hanging a murderer is actually beneficial. Such a sinful person who has murdered is better suffering in this life rather than greater sufferings in his next lives. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but to cure him.
Capital punishment also stands as a powerful deterrent for future criminals. Politicians, afraid of being implicated in their own laws, often shy away from a strong stance.
Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here