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Death to the Death Penalty

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Message Larry Au
"...he looked up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.-- - John 8:7

In the past few days, the debate on capital punishment has once again been ignited by the hanging of ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. To me, I believe that the death penalty is simply not the way to go about punishing people for their crimes. As a Christian, the biggest and most definitive argument for me to put an end to the death penalty is the fact that the right to take away life is that of God's and not anyone else's.

To me, it is a perversity that certain groups from the Christian Right can twist the meaning of the Bible to permit such acts of cruelty. The arguments and facts presented in the Bible reflected the traditions that are the best of its time. In fact, if we are to take the Bible word through word, we should be able to allow slave trade, child labour, the stoning of homosexuals, prostitutes, adulterers, murderers, those who plant different produces side by side, or wear clothes made of two different kinds of thread - or even to cast away into exile those who work on the Sabbath, those who've touched the skin of a dead pig (anyone who's touched a baseball), or have mixed dairy products with meat.

The United States is the only so called 'first world country' that permits the death penalty in its legal system, although it prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments" in its constitution. Hence putting it alongside with countries such as Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Guatemala, Swaziland, Kinshasha-Congo, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Syria and many other developing countries that still permits the killing of its citizens.

The UDHR, along with many international organizations condems the death penalty - because, as the UDHR states, the fundamental human rights includes "life, liberty, and the security of person." But there are many other more 'practical' reasons which argues for the case of the abolishment of the death penalty. The death penalty, as seen by many, is a racially biased form of punishment, as it is applied mainly to minority groups. Statistics from the Death Penalty Focus organizations shows us that around 60% of all present death row inmates are non-white, while around 80% of the US population is white.

Those who have been executed are usually those living below the poverty line - when have you ever heard of someone being executed for commiting a white-collared crime (such as a multi-millionaire bankrupting his company, defrauding his investors, putting tens of thousands of people out of work, and hiding millions of tax-free dollars in a bank in the Caymans that awaits his spending once he gets of a jail)? And then, there is the reason that we execute innocent people. Out of all the people that have been executed, we can statistically argue that there has to be at least one of them that have been wrongly executed. If at least one innocent person has been executed, it is still too high of a price to pay.

But in the end, we have to admit the fact that the death penalty is the easy way out for governments. We should not punish those who have wronged us or have gone astray, in fact we should help rehabilitate them back into society. Simply getting rid of the problem is not the right way to go. We should fix the problem, so that it will never happen again.

I am sickened by the fact that there are people watching videos of Saddam's hanging and rejoicing over it. The value of a human life is one that is beyond measure, and if we are to take a person's life so carelessly, I think we should reflect upon why people would do so. Death is never something to be celebrated.

"They (Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki) discussed the current situation in Iraq, including the execution of Saddam Hussein. The President congratulated the Prime Minister on the decision to - perhaps, congratulations is probably not the proper term to use." - Tony Snow in a recent press briefing
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