As the nation observed the killing of John Muhammad last night (Live with Larry King!) I gathered with a small group of students, seminarians, and a Roman Catholic Priest to meet Rev. Caroll Pickett, who was the chaplain for prisoners about to be executed in Texas. Â We watched the documentary At the Death House Door:Â
After his ministry of being present with 95 inmates in the last day and moments of life, Rev. Carroll Picket has come out against the death penalty. Â Rev. Pickett is noÂ softy. Â When he started this work he was for the death penalty. Â Hs own grandfather was murdered, and while he was still serving as the pastor of a church two members of his congregation were taken hostage and murdered at the same prison where he would eventually serve as chaplain at the death house. Â His views changed over time, and last night he emphatically said that everyone can change, everyone can be redeemed – that includes the inmates, but also himself.Â
Rev. Pickett’s reason to be against the death penalty are varied. Â One important one is that he believes that some of the men killed are actually innocent and that the death penalty leads to the miscarriage of justice which cannot be taken back if new evidence is uncovered. Â Another reason is that it doesn’t solve anything, that the death penalty offers no closure for the families of the victims. Â Another reason is that it doesn’t work as a deterrent. Â Finally, Rev. Pickett just doesn’t believe that killing is right ever. Â Pickett is no liberal and he doesn’t have a lenient bone in his body – he wants people locked up for life with noÂ possibilityÂ of parole in solitary confinement. Â In his view (and he has seen it) this is a far more threatening and feared penalty among the criminally minded than death. Â
Rev. Pickett ended his talk with asking us the question: Do you know what it says on the cause of death for those executed by the state? Â Death by murder. Â John Muhammed deserved to have life in prison, in solitary confinement, without theÂ possibilityÂ of parole. Â Instead, last night while the nation watched, he was murdered.Â
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Diana Butler Bass and Paul Raushenbush both stand firmly within the Mainline Protestant tradition and, along with guest bloggers of all religious backgrounds are dedicated to the revival of religious progressivism and its influence in American politics.