Sometimes bravery is required to follow your conscience. And sometimes failure to act bravely in that way can have long-lasting consequences for many people.
Take, for example, former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (pictured here). All the while he was on the court he supported the constitutionality of the death penalty. As a result, many people were executed and capital punishment continues to be used in a majority of states today.
Now, however, Stevens has written a new book in which he finally takes a stand against the death penalty. As this Atlantic Monthly piece notes, Stevens says in Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, that he wants to include capital punishment among constitutionally banned "cruel and unusual" punishments.
As Andrew Cohen notes in the piece, "It took Justice Stevens over 30 years—from his ascension to the Supreme Court in 1975 to 2008—to reach this point. And it has taken him another six years, from 2008 to 2014, to fully become the advocate for reform that he never was on the Court. If I were Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, I would invite Justice Stevens today to testify on Capitol Hill about the death penalty—to bear witness, expert witness, to its arbitrary nature."
A good idea, though I think Stevens' credibility may be compromised by his failure to stand against the death penalty when he had a chance to do some practical good with his opposition. It's a little like former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara's late admission that he and others botched the Vietnam War.
Still, as Cohen notes, better late than never.
What I've never understood about the death penalty in the U.S. is why it exists in a country that is arguably one of the most religious in the world. There are, after all, many reasons for people of faith to oppose capital punishment, not the least of which is that in its current practice it sometimes puts innocent people to death.
Killing innocent people doesn't seem like a core religious value to me.
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THAT WORLD VISION DECISION
The recent World Vision flip-flop on same-sex equal rights continues to create waves, Religion News Service reports. This is all going to look so silly 20 or 30 years from now. Sooner, we hope, when anti-gay attitudes finally are marginalized, as they should be.