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Michigan Catholic Conference
Phone
(800) 395-5565
Fax
(517) 372-3940
Address
510 S. Capitol Ave.
Lansing, MI 48933

News Release: Reject Death Penalty Resolution, MCC Official Tells House Committee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LANSING–An official of the Michigan Catholic Conference today urged rejection of any death penalty resolutions before the House Constitutional Law and Ethics Committee.

Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy of the Michigan Catholic Conference, called upon committee members to reject House Joint Resolution H—which would allow the death penalty for first degree murder.

“On the issue of capital punishment, as with assisted suicide or abortion, the Church stands against the use of lethal means to solve social problems,” Long said. “We do not challenge society’s right to punish the serious and violent offender. But, to serve as an effective deterrent to crime, any punishment must be swift, sure and even handed. Capital punishment fails in all these categories.”

Long pointed out that abandoning Michigan’s 153 year ban on capital punishment, the longest in the English speaking world, would be inappropriate government action. “By its very nature, a harmonious social order recognizes the role of law and its relation to rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Law comforts and it controls. It protects and it punishes. It edifies and it enriches. It limits and it liberates. It should not kill. For a government with the power to kill, is a government with too much power,” he said.

The complete text of Mr. Long’s testimony follows.

Written Testimony of Michigan Catholic Conference on House Joint Resolution H

Good morning. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee I am Paul Long, the Vice President of Public Policy at the Michigan Catholic Conference. The Michigan Catholic Conference is the public policy voice for the Catholic Church in our state. We thank you for the opportunity to offer our brief reflections on House Joint Resolution H.

Traditionally, the Michigan Catholic Conference has opposed efforts to restore the death penalty in Michigan. From our advocacy during the 1961 constitutional convention, to our opposition to various ballot initiatives, to our testimony before various legislative committees our position has always been clear: On the issue of capital punishment, as with assisted suicide or abortion, the Church stands against the use of lethal means to solve social problems.

We acknowledge the need to protect society from violent crime. We do not challenge society’s right to punish the serious and violent offender. But, to serve as an effective deterrent to crime, any punishment must be swift, sure and even handed. Capital punishment fails in all these categories.

By its very nature, a harmonious social order recognizes the role of law and its relation to rights, privileges, and responsibilities. Law comforts and it controls. It protects and it punishes. It edifies and it enriches. It limits and it liberates.

It should not kill. For a government with the power to kill, is a government with too much power.

As the report of the 1844 Select Committee on the Abolishment of Capital Punishment of the House and Senate stated:

“Imposition of the penalty is a ‘usurped power of government;’ since no man has the right to take his own life, he cannot delegate the power to take his life to the government.”

The restoration of the death penalty, absent in our state since 1846, is a simplistic solution to complex problems. As was the case with assisted suicide, proponents of the death penalty outline the most gruesome and heinous acts and suggest that if we abandon our 153 year public policy and adopt legalized killing we will put an end to such acts. Public policy, however, should not be developed in response to a specific anecdote, no matter how gruesome and heinous. Public policy should be developed with the common good as the central theme undergirded in the belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person.

It may be said that this resolution is limited in its scope and approach. But the fact of the matter is that Michigan’s prohibition, the longest in the English speaking world, would come to an end.

We urge this committee to oppose House Joint Resolution H, and all other proposals which would allow the death penalty in Michigan. Thank you.

Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state.

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Name
Michigan Catholic Conference
Phone
(800) 395-5565
Fax
(517) 372-3940
Email
Address
510 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, Michigan 48933
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