Capital punishment, commonly known as the death penalty, is the killing of somebody as punishment for a crime they committed, usually murder. Over the years this topic has become increasingly controversial among Americans.
Much like abortion, this issue is controversial because it challenges people’s values and beliefs. Because of the wide spectrum of ideologies, religions, and belief systems, there are many arguments for and against it. These arguments can be divided into three major categories: morality, constitutionality, and economics.
First, the question of morality; How do we value life? Now, if we truly believe in the sanctity of life, then how do we judge who deserves to live? This is where the debate lies on this issue. Those opposed to capital punishment will often make the case that society has a responsibility to protect human life, not take it away. While those in favor can argue that the government is protecting human life by eliminating evil-doers. But if the alternative to capital punishment, which is life in prison, accomplishes the same goal of protecting the public from bad people, should we not go down that route? Richard Viguerie, a popular conservative figure, said “Society may protect itself without putting a human to death as it would a wild animal. Since we believe each person has a soul and is capable of achieving salvation, life in prison is now an alternative to the death penalty.”
Often times when morality is brought up, the question of religion is usually close behind. As a Christian the bible tells us that our morals should align with god’s will in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We can also find multiple scriptures that refer to the concept of an eye for an eye, such as Leviticus 24:17-22 ““Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him. Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.” If capital punishment is god’s will, then as Christians we have a responsibility to abide by his will.
Most people believe that life in prison costs more than capital punishment, so the question is often asked, “Why should we pay more to keep these criminals alive when we can just eliminate them for much cheaper?” But, a study by Lewis and Clarke Law School found that the average costs of trial and incarceration for those sentenced to death is almost double those who are sentenced to life in prison, because of the many precautions that must be taken through court procedures in order to make sure that the right person is sentenced. There have been many cases since 1976 in which the person sentenced to death was found to be innocent long after their execution.
Finally, is capital punishment unconstitutional? The right to life is an unalienable right laid out by the constitution given to all people by our creator.Those who object to capital punishment argue that the state doesn’t have the right to take that right away, and to do so is a violation of the constitution. But, in the Supreme Court case Gregg v. Georgia (1976,) the court ruled that the death penalty is constitutional.
Ultimately the debate on capital punishment can be summed up in one sentence; how do we bring about justice to evil-doers? That is a question that will be debated for years to come.
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