Emma Tacke speaks to Catholic high school students about the death penalty in Ohio
Emma Tacke speaks to a crowd of Ohio Catholic high school students about the Church's call to end the death penalty.

By: Emma Tacke

Slowly but surely, Ohio is moving away from the death penalty. Throughout his first year in office, Ohio governor Mike Dewine issued reprieves for twelve men on death row, and executions are on hold indefinitely statewide due to complications with obtaining drugs needed for lethal injections.

Recent statements from leadership in the state’s House have indicated further disillusionment with capital punishment. Housespeaker Larry Householder, regarding Ohio’s current lack of means to carry out executions, said “We don’t have an instrument with which to comply, and we may never have an instrument with which to comply.” 

The Role of Catholic Ohioans

In the first week of March, I had the pleasure of traveling to Columbus to speak to Catholic high school students about the Church's call to end the death penalty. Over the course of two days I, along with speakers from other death penalty abolition groups like Journey of Hope and Death Penalty Action, engaged in conversation with approximately 1,200 young people, answering questions about our Gospel call to honor the dignity of all human life and dispelling myths about capital punishment. 

My trip was well-timed. That same week, during a press conference on March 5th, a bipartisan coalition of Ohio lawmakers announced plans to introduce a bill to repeal the death penalty. Representatives from other pro-repeal groups, including the Ohio Catholic Conference and the state’s new chapter of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty, also participated in the press conference.

Death penalty repeal legislation is a top priority for many in the Ohio legislature, and efforts to abolish the practice are expected to ramp up in 2021. 

In a letter to Speaker Householder, Archbishop of Cincinnatti Dennis Schnurr encouraged the Speaker of the House to continue the path towards repeal: “We urge you to use your excellent leadership skills to pursue ways to end the use of the death penalty in Ohio...We look forward to the day when the death penalty is only remembered as part of Ohio’s history.”

Catholics make up approximately 18% of Ohio’s total population, and therefore have an important role to play in ending the death penalty in the Buckeye state. This year and next present exciting opportunities for Ohio Catholics to unite and show their support for honoring the dignity of all human life.