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What Happens When We Come Together

What Happens When We Come Together

On Wednesday, Nebraska became the nineteenth state to abolish the death penalty. The vote made Nebraska the first state in two years to formally abolish capital punishment. The decision comes at a time when support for the death penalty is decreasing and the number of executions is declining. In fact, polls released last month by Pew Research Center and CBS News show that public support for the death penalty has declined to almost historic lows. Only 56% of Americans reported supporting the death penalty—the lowest level of support ever recorded by the CBS News poll and near the lowest level reported by Pew in the last 40 years. And, the level of support for capital punishment has been falling consistently for two decades.

Last week, Nebraska’s unicameral legislature voted 32 to 15 to abolish the death penalty. Governor Pete Ricketts had promised to veto the bill and did so on Tuesday. The legislature answered by scheduling a vote for Wednesday, and the final vote was 30-19 to override the veto. The vote made history as Nebraska became the first red state to end capital punishment in more than 40 years.

The success of repeal in Nebraska shows what can happen when conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, come together to work for justice. The urgent need for criminal justice reform in our country has consistently gained bipartisan support, and Nebraska’s vote yesterday exemplifies what can happen when we shed partisan shells and unite to action on a key issue. Before voting, the Nebraskan lawmakers spoke in defense of their votes, sharing the many reasons that they believe the death penalty should be repealed. Some spoke about injustice and the inequality that exists in death sentences, others spoke about the fear of executing innocent people. Many people shared their faith and explained their opposition to state-sanctioned executions.

As people of faith, the Reform Movement has formally opposed the death penalty since 1959, citing the value of every human life. The resolution opposing the death penalty states: “we believe there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and that it is the obligation of society to evolve other methods in dealing with crime.” We applaud the progress made today in Nebraska and will continue to fight against the death penalty until it is repealed in all 50 states.

For more information about the RAC’s work on the death penalty and broader criminal justice topics, check out our website.

Published: 5/28/2015

Categories: Social Justice