PFADP’s Kairos Campaign: Manifesting the “Divine Dimension” in This Moment for Abolition

April 16, 2012

By Amanda Lattanzio, Community Organizer, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty (PFADP)

April 16, 2012

PFADP works to educate and mobilize faith communities to act to abolish the death penalty in United States. Founded in 1994 in North Carolina, we focus our programs on organizing among faith communities.

In 1999, we launched our North Carolina Moratorium Now campaign. We held hundreds of forums at churches, synagogues and temples across the state. The campaign generated 50,000 petition signatures, 1,100 moratorium resolutions from congregations, small family businesses and community groups in every North Carolina county. We obtained resolutions from 39 local governments – from the biggest cities such as Charlotte and Fayetteville to small rural hamlets. Each of these resolutions was a tangible project and important victory for our base, empowering the people who generated it, engaging the congregation or organization that endorsed it, and thereby widening the movement. Each local government resolution involved an organizing campaign that had lasting impacts. The campaign earned widespread positive media and editorial attention and created a buzz around North Carolina. We believe that the legislative victories in North Carolina over the past decade would not have happened without the North Carolina Moratorium Now campaign and the tide of support for reforms it generated. The North Carolina Racial Justice Act (RJA), increased funding for indigent defense, exempting people with mental retardation from the death penalty, doctors successfully challenging the North Carolina Medical Board’s policies allowing doctors to actively participate in executions, and the six-year de facto moratorium itself would likely not have happened in North Carolina without the grassroots base of support PFADP cultivated.

We also generated endorsements for a letter for the RJA from more than 600 religious leaders in North Carolina. We advised the two Catholic bishops of North Carolina on the RJA and garnered their support for it. Many of these same religious leaders continue to work alongside PFADP in calling for the RJA to be left intact, as there is an ongoing effort to repeal this vital law. In part due to this widespread support from the religious community across the state, Governor Beverly Perdue had the backing that she needed to veto the initial RJA repeal bill and sustain it against an override attempt.

On November 16-17, 2010, in Atlanta hundreds of religious leaders and concerned people came to the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., copastored with his father, and Emory University for PFADP’s Kairos Conference and Concert: Discerning Justice and Taking Action on America’s Death Penalty. National and regional religious organizations and advocacy groups, including the CMN, joined PFADP in launching the Kairos Campaign to Mobilize Faith-Based Opposition to America’s Death Penalty.

This next decade is the ripe political, social and cultural moment in history for the movement to abolish the death penalty in the United States. Theologian Paul Tillich calls Kairos the “manifestation of the divine dimension of the moment. . . . when the new reality has come, the time of the New Being.”

PFADP intends to facilitate moving the religious community in America to become strategically engaged with the movement to abolish the death penalty. CMN founder and Dead Man Walking author Sister Helen Prejean chairs PFADP’s Kairos campaign. We will build on our successes to continue to reduce the scope of the death penalty and mobilize the public to proclaim the death penalty as the useless, expensive, error-prone and unfair policy that it is.

Through the Kairos campaign, PFADP has generated more than 3,500 signatures from religious leaders for clemency for Troy Davis on Georgia’s death row, an unprecedented number of religious leaders mobilized for a single clemency effort. PFADP has since partnered with Maryland Citizens Against State Executions, Ohioans to Stop Executions, Amnesty International USA and other groups on a variety of letters for repeal or clemency from clergy and laity.

In December 2011, we officially launched the Kairos Campaign in North Carolina with a press conference in Raleigh featuring Sister Helen and religious leaders from across the state. Building on the success of our North Carolina Moratorium Now Campaign, we see the next decade as the time to replicate our moratorium campaign in North Carolina with a similar repeal campaign to lay the groundwork for repeal.

The initial goals of the Kairos Campaign in North Carolina include more than 1,000 resolutions from faith communities, businesses, community groups and even local governments in every county in North Carolina. The campaign also includes a petition, a statewide letter for repeal from faith leaders and the formation of denominational task forces to promote the campaign within religious traditions. Already more than 500 congregations and local businesses in more than half of North Carolina’s 100 counties have passed PFADP’s resolutions calling on North Carolina to replace the death penalty with life without parole and to use the funds that would be saved to help murder victims’ family members. A list of these resolutions is available at www.pfadp.org.

PFADP will not stop this campaign until enough people, faith communities and institutions have taken action until the death penalty is repealed, no matter how long that takes.

We want to help you mobilize faith communities in your state. We hope that you will get involved today. Join the campaign!

For more information contact Amanda by e-mail or by phone at (919) 933-7567.