An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.  - Gandhi

Oklahoma Christian leaders deliver ‘Statement in Opposition’ during World Day Against the Death Penalty

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Oklahoma State Senator Constance N. Johnson opened the World Day Against the Death Penalty press conference by welcoming some 30 attendees at the State Capitol. The 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty news conference was co-sponsored by The Oklahoma Conference of Churches and the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Christian Denomination leaders and a murder-victim family member each spoke about their faith perspective and the death penalty. The panel speakers were followed by a community roundtable dialog of attendees and presenters facilitated by OK-CADP Co-Chair Lydia Polley.

Polley said, “OK-CADP is so grateful to Rev. Dr. Tabbernee and Rev. Stan Basler for their leadership in producing this profound theological statement regarding capital punishment by the denominational members of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. Most, if not all, civil justice progress—such as abolishing slavery, women’s right to vote, civil rights legislation—was made through the leadership of faith organizations like OCC.”

Dr. William Tabbernee, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches moderated the event that included guest speakers Bishop Mike Girlinghouse, AR-OK Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America; Dr. Stan Basler, Director Criminal Justice & Mercy Ministries, Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church; and Neely Goen, ordained minister and daughter of a Kansas Highway Patrol officer who was murdered.

“Capital punishment is not a deterrent, as capital crimes are usually crimes of passion or committed in the process of trying to escape or not be caught in committing another crime,” said Tabbernee. Therefore, in the heat of the moment people do not think about the consequences. Retribution is not a good enough reason for having capital punishment. Capital punishment doesn’t really alleviate the suffering of the loved ones of victims–at least not in the long term. Only forgiveness does that.”

10.10, the 10th World Day Against the Death Penalty, was convened to help activists worldwide rally to oppose the death penalty and unite behind the struggle for universal abolition.

“I call upon the legislature and other leaders of this state to explore other ways of addressing the realities of violence in Oklahoma,” said Bishop Girlinghouse. “Dangerous individuals should be incapacitated by removing them from society – not through the violence of the death penalty but through sentences of life in prison without parole.”

“The root causes of violence should be addressed by legislation that establishes ways of building up communities, addressing poverty, strengthening families, and identifying and caring for those who suffer from addiction and mental illness,” said Girlinghouse. “The state has a God-given responsibility to care for and protect its citizens (Romans 13). But, capital punishment is not necessary nor does it contribute to fulfilling this responsibility.”

“When we kill an inmate we are taking someone’s son or daughter, we are taking someone’s husband or wife, we are taking someone’s mother or father. We make those people suffer just as much as their victims families suffered,” said Goen. “I want people to realize that everybody, no matter right or wrong, no matter whether they’ve cut you off in traffic or killed your brother, they’re still a human being and all you’re doing by killing them is causing more pain.”

Dr. Stan Basler read the Statement of Opposition by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, which is attached for your review.

For more information, visit, or call Dr. Bill Tabbernee: 405-525-2528; or Lydia Polley: 405-948-1103 or 405-206-6061.

The statement, entitled “Theological Statement in Opposition to the Death Penalty” was published by the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. Read the statement, or download for printing (PDF).