Troy Davis’ death sentence has stirred opinion across the globe, from former President Jimmy Carter to Pope Benedict XVI. The Georgia inmate was denied clemency Tuesday – a decision that many call “unconscionable” and begs the question: is the death penalty biblical?
Davis was scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. However, Davis' defense team made a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and as the scheduled time for the execution came and went, still no announcement emerged from the Supreme Court. However, finally at about 10.20 p.m. it was reported that the final plea had failed, and 10 minutes later Georgia officials announced Davis would be executed just 30 minutes later.
So what should Christians make of the death penalty as a means of criminal punishment?
The pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, Heidi Neumark, has told The Christian Post that a judicial decision to execute someone is not in accordance with Christian teaching.
“Christian teaching is not about judging people,” the NYC pastor told CP. “It’s about preserving life and leaving judgment in God’s hands.”
According to Neumark, humanity is fallible and people make mistakes in determining another’s guilt or innocence. We do not have the right to take a person’s life she stated.
“I think it’s abominable – a shameful, terrible thing,” she added. “First of all there are a lot of questions [regarding] whether this person [Davis] is even guilty and if he is, I don’t believe he should be put to death. He should receive life in prison.”
Pastor David Wright, CEO of DOersTV, an online Christian TV network, on the other hand believes the death penalty is in fact biblical, citing scripture Romans 13:1-5 which reads:
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God…”
Wright told CP, when asked whether or not capital punishment was biblical, “Yes I believe it is, if it’s correct and not the wrong person.”
“However, that does not mean a person has not been forgiven by God just because they have a death sentence,” he added.
The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Davis’ request for clemency, following last-minute testimony in a convened hearing Tuesday.
A U.S. envoy for Pope Benedict XVI had sent a letter appealing to state officials to consider the circumstances that have weakened the credibility of Davis’ conviction, Savannah Morning News wrote.
Monsignor Martin Krebs wrote, “I reiterate the commitment of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, to uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, and I hope you will give heed to his petition.”
According to Tree of Life Christian Ministries Pastor James Robinson, having seven witnesses from the nine whose testimonies aided in Davis's conviction recant their testimonies is something people cannot "just ignore and kill a man."
"In spite of what the verdict may have been," Robinson told CP, "the execution should be delayed in light of the fact that we may be killing an innocent man."
Troy Davis was found guilty of the 1989 killing of Mark MacPhail, a Savannah, Ga., police officer who was shot dead when he attempted to help a homeless man who was being attacked.