NC Bishops Request Support for Original Racial Justice Act
June 2, 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
We seek your assistance in modifying a bill that is being voted on by the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.
The North Carolina Racial Justice Act (SB461) in its original version is an excellent bill. Its intention is to require a review in all capital punishment sentences to determine if race was a factor used by the prosecution in assigning this type of penalty.
Sadly, there is a tragic history of African-American men who have been given a death sentence in our state clearly motivated by race, a history that extends to the present. Recently, African-American men have been exonerated from a death sentence and in some cases released from prison because it was determined they were innocent. Evidence strongly suggests that race was a motivating factor in the dissemination of the death penalty to these men and the Senate acknowledged this injustice by passing the bill.
We endorse the original version of this bill. Unfortunately, the Senate added an amendment to it that we are unable to endorse. This amendment authorizes licensed health care professionals to administer lethal drugs with impunity in the performance of an execution. This is in direct opposition to their Hippocratic oath (“Do no harm.”). We also oppose this amendment because it will restart capital punishment in our state. Pope John Paul II in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), has clarified the Church’s opposition to capital punishment, declaring that it should rarely, if ever, be used in developed countries like the United States.
We ask you to contact the members of the House Ways and Means Committee and ask them to support only the original version of the North Carolina Racial Justice Act.
Most Reverend Peter J. Jugis
Bishop of Charlotte
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Raleigh