by Cathy Jarboe,
CMN Director of Catholic State Networks and Organization
– January 14, 2013 –
In the past five years, five states have overturned the death penalty. Last year, California came close to replacing the death penalty, nearly passing a referendum in which 48% supported ending its use. Catholic support for the death penalty is significantly dropping around the country – and CMN’s work to educate Catholics, collaborate with secular and faith leaders, and lift up Catholics in the dialogue continues in earnest. This will be another busy, important year.
In 2013, CMN will attend nearly two dozen conferences, speaking, presenting our workshops, and exhibiting our resources. In the first few months of the year, we’ll exhibit at NCEA’s 2013 Convention and present our workshop “Teaching the Sanctity of All Life through the Lens of the Death Penalty,” and be present at the 2013 USCCB’s annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC.
This year, CMN will also expand efforts to reach out to young Catholics. To help meet the needs of youth ministers, we are expanding our online resources to include educational tools for young people. We are glad to announce that Wayne Hipley, has joined our national staff as Director of Youth Ministry. He will ensure that our message engages young Catholics and encourages action. Sr. Ilaria Buonriposi, CMS, continues to meet with Hispanic Catholic leaders, exhibit, present our workshop, develop resources for Spanish-speaking Catholics, and enables us to reach out to that community with inspirational and educational materials. This year, her projects will help CMN reach out to the Latino Charismatic Movement and will broaden our work with Spanish speaking radio.
CMN also hopes to make a more focused effort toward outreach and education of Catholics living in rural America. As we did in years past, we will work with major Catholic national organizations in educating Catholics and find national groups whose outreach and ministry will support our work in states where efforts to end the death penalty need support.
On the legislative front, action is expected in Maryland, Colorado, Montana, Delaware and Kansas, where support for ending the death penalty is bipartisan. Already, Kentucky’s Rep. Carl Rollins II has filed a bill in the state legislature to replace the death penalty with a maximum sentence of life without parole.
Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley, has vowed to sign a similar bill when it reaches his desk, and legislation is expected to be introduced in the Maryland statehouse in January. It could be signed into law by March if it passes. CMN, the Maryland Catholic Conference, Maryland’s Citizens Against State Executions (MdCASE), the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (NCADP) and victims’ families are engaged in efforts to bring the death penalty to an end in Maryland.
In Montana, there is more support than ever before and the newly formed group Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty has sparked changes. This year, many new faces in the state legislature are bringing new opportunities for the Montana Abolition Coalition and the Montana Catholic Conference.
In Colorado, State Senator Claire Levy is drafting a bill to abolish the death penalty. “We have increasing concerns about the possibility of executing an innocent person,” said Levy.
Using innovative techniques such as online advocacy tools and a voter activation database, the Delaware Repeal Project (DRP) and the NCADP are ramping up efforts to bring capital punishment to an end in 2013. CMN is working with DRP to engage Catholic leaders and encourage support of its “Abolition Sundays” project.
In the majority-conservative Kansas legislature, 2010 saw a 20-20 tie vote on a bill ending the death penalty. This year, a similar bill is expected to be introduced by a long time supporter in the state house. By expanding efforts around the state and drawing together a diverse coalition of groups and individuals, hopes for passage of a bill are rising. On February 2nd, CMN’s own Fr. Pat Delahanty will be a keynote speaker in a panel discussion at a Wichita Diocese event “Capital Punishment, Who is it Serving?” which is open to the public.
For more information about upcoming legislation, we encourage you to visit the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC). DPIC is a trusted source of information for CMN and many other organizations working to end the death penalty.
CMN looks forward to a busy, productive year! Now is a great time to get involved! If you would like to learn more or take action, contact Cathy Jarboe. As always, your kind donations support our mission – to donate, click here.