The Common Good

Pastors, Christian Leaders Blast Michael Dunn Verdict And Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Date: February 21, 2014

In the wake of the jury deadlocked on whether to charge Michael Dunn for first-degree murder charges against the late Jordan Davis, pastors and Christian leaders have criticized Florida's Justifiable Use of Force law, most often referred to as the "Stand Your Ground" law.

Dunn was convicted on three counts of attempted murder, but the Florida jury came to no consensus on Saturday on whether to convict or acquit the defendant in the African American teenager's 2012 murder....

Jim Wallis, who is president of the left-leaning Christian social justice advocacy group Sojourners, said that the African American community should not be the only voice criticizing the Dunn's trial and Florida's Stand Your Ground law.

"As a white evangelical I believe that we should not leave the issue of race to be brought up only by our African American brothers and sisters," he wrote in a statement to The Christian Post. "When racism is tolerated, it contradicts the reconciling work of Christ on the cross, which is the heart of the Gospel. The church was designed to display the 'manifold wisdom of God' through our unity. And when racial discrimination is part of our criminal justice system, it's our collective responsibility and calling--as individual Christians and the church as a whole--to speak out against that injustice."

Wallis spoke out against the self-defense law in a Huffington Post op-ed earlier this week in which he comments on research that shows disparities in how the law is being applied.

"The problem is the systemic injustice inherent in Stand Your Ground laws: just feeling like you are being threatened can justify your response in 'self-defense.' Under Florida self-defense laws now, someone can use even lethal force if they "reasonably believe" it is necessary to defend their lives or avoid great harm," wrote Wallis.

Wallis also suggests that the law "creates an opportunity for racial factors – whether they're conscious or not – to trump facts when even one juror who is sympathetic to a defendant's 'reasonable' fear can prevent prosecution."