Three times in the past month, the Nebraska Legislature voted for a bill to repeal capital punishment and replace it with life without parole. The governor has promised to veto the legislation, and an override vote is looming. Many of the Christian lawmakers made it clear they cast their votes against the death penalty, in part, to promote a whole life ethic.
The leader of the group is Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln, a Catholic who put his personal reasons for opposing capital punishment into one easily understood phrase.
LIKE THE 2013 Moral Monday protests—which over the course of last spring and summer saw more than 900 people arrested for peaceful civil disobedience, February’s Moral March was notable for the diversity of races, ages, causes, and faiths represented. This is the fruit of long-term coalition-building among progressive groups and individual activists sparked by Rev. William Barber in late 2006 that resulted in the formation of the Historic Thousands on Jones St. People’s Assembly Coalition. This coalition, under the banner of the “Forward Together Moral Movement,” worked out of these established relationships, including significant church involvement, to organize the 13 Raleigh Moral Mondays and more than 25 local Moral Mondays statewide last year. The model seems to be spreading, with groups in Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina staging similar protests.
This movement has its work cut out for it—the voter suppression package that the North Carolina legislature passed last year is considered to be one of the harshest in the country. (The U.S. Justice Department has sued the state over the new law.) Lawmakers also cut the earned-income tax credit for 900,000 North Carolinians, cut tax rates for top earners while raising taxes on the bottom 95 percent, rejected Medicaid expansion, cut pre-K for 30,000 kids, have undermined environmental protection enforcement, and made it harder to challenge death sentences even if racial bias in a trial could be proved.
But the Moral movement is gearing up for 2014 and beyond—hoping to place young organizers in counties across North Carolina to engage in voter mobilization and education as part of “Freedom Summer 2014,” challenging the voting restrictions in court, and planning more opportunities for peaceful resistance. —The Editors
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Any right-thinking stranger on our shores must read our daily news and think our nation has gone mad. We have cultivated the ability to end lives quickly; and yet we are continually surprised when our fellow citizens use the tools we have devised for exactly the purpose for which we invented them. Come to think of it, I think we’ve gone mad, too.
But our madness is not one that can be cured by laws alone. Laws can help to restrain us, and can help by making it a little less easy for us to find ourselves armed for murder. But we need something more, something that churches are better equipped to offer than legislatures are.
What we need right now is a richer moral imagination. We need better stories to tell ourselves, stories about the kind of people we could be. We need, more than anything, to learn to help one another to do the hard work of choosing not to pull the trigger.