Editorial — It can happen here

Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t happen here.

Don’t let anyone say Kentucky is a much too conservative state to ever repeal capital punishment.

Look at what just happened in Nebraska, a so-called “red state” just like Kentucky. Not only did the Nebraska legislature repeal the death penalty, its state senators overrode the veto of Governor Pat Ricketts to do it. (The state replaced the death penalty with a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.)

That happened in Nebraska on May 27.

It will happen in Kentucky eventually, and Father Pat Delahanty, chair of the Kentucky Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty believes it just might be sooner rather than later.

“It is going to happen in Kentucky, it’s just a question of time,” Father Delahanty said in an email exchange the week of Nebraska’s historic action. Capital punishment has now been outlawed or has had a moratorium placed upon it in 19 states, said Father Delahanty, a retired priest and former executive director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.

There is little doubt, he said, that the action taken by Nebraska is likely to add to the momentum of anti-death penalty advocates across the nation — and certainly in Kentucky.

Nebraska is the first red state to outlaw the death penalty since the early 1970s, and Father Delahanty said the override of a governor’s veto gives the action even more significance than had it merely passed the legislature and become law.

“To override a governor’s veto is so dramatic and takes such a super-majority, it makes a greater statement than had the governor simply signed the bill into law,” he explained. “It shows how willing the lawmakers were to do the right thing.”

The vote to override the veto was close — 30-19. According to a Catholic News Service (CNS) story on May 29, the effort to override the veto was led by state Sen. Colby Coash, a Catholic Republican. He told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star that he was motivated by his faith and church teaching on the death penalty.

Some analysts have said that conservatives are beginning to re-think their traditional support of the death penalty, often for financial reasons. They are coming to believe that capital punishment isn’t a “financially effective” way of dealing with convicted murderers, a National Public Radio story said last week.

But that, too, is a moral position, Father Delahanty noted.

“I apply a moral equivalent to the use of the death penalty and a state budget that is not meeting the needs of people,” he explained. “If people are hungry, if their education system is underfunded and failing them, then to waste taxpayer dollars on the death penalty is immoral from that perspective and ought to be called into the equation.”

The CNS story noted the work of The Catholic Mobilizing Network, “an organization working to end the use of the death penalty around the country.”

The network released a statement welcoming the developments in Nebraska, noting that “Republicans, Democrats and independents reached across the aisle to champion repeal.”

That effort “demonstrates growing recognition that the death penalty is a broken and morally bankrupt policy,” the network statement said.

What’s happened in Nebraska, Father Delahanty noted, “makes it far more likely that it can happen in Kentucky.”

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

GLENN RUTHERFORD
Record Editor Emeritus

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