The arguments for keeping the death penalty in force, in the states that still have it, usually invoke deterrence or the need for “closure” for the families of murder victims. But a Wyoming lawmaker who helped defeat a bill to repeal capital punishment used the novel argument that Christianity was founded on the death penalty, in the sense that Jesus was crucified by the state as a criminal.
“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” State Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, told the Casper Star-Tribune. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”
According to the New Testament, Jesus was arrested by Roman authorities in Jerusalem’s Garden of Gethsemane. He was tried and sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect for the province of Judea.
Wyoming’s state Senate, with help from Hutchings, voted down a bill to abolish the death penalty in the state. The final vote was 12 in favor and 18 against.
Death penalty opponents argued that prohibiting capital punishment would have saved Wyoming money and made the criminal justice system more humane. The state has not executed a prisoner since 1992.
Not every state senator agreed with Hutchings’s use of Jesus to justify the death penalty.
“Regardless of my personal thoughts — my religion doesn’t believe in the right to kill people — that’s not enough for me,” Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, who voted for the measure, told the Star-Tribune.
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