The Pen

Montana and the Death Penalty

“The senator for my district (SD19), Matt Rosendale, argues that Christian values must positively influence Montana’s decision to end the death penalty. As a Christian and pastor from Senate District 19, I have to disagree with his position on this issue.

Senator Rosendale wrote that “[ending the death penalty] is consistent with Christian values, which teach us to show mercy and compassion.” Mercy and compassion, however, are not contradictory to justice. Proverbs 11:21 teaches that God will not leave the wicked unpunished. Would Senator Rosendale interpret this to mean that God is not compassionate or merciful? Likewise, Senator Rosendale wrote of Jesus saving the adulterous woman, saying, “He who is blameless throw the first stone.” Jesus was rebuking a mob engaging in vigilante justice by some who had committed the same crime. Montana has executed only three murderers since 1973. One can hardly argue we suffer from a mob mentality of vigilante justice.

Romans 13 is clear. It is not the individual’s job to punish law breakers, but the government’s job. In fact, this passage clarifies that the government can distribute justice through the sword (implying death). Jesus said to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” It is Caesar’s job to carry out justice and make the tough decisions. Justice is a bigger issue than the expense differentials between capital punishment and life imprisonment.”

This was a statement I gave to the Billing Gazette, concerning upcoming legislation. I will be testifying to the Montana legislature (judiciary committee) on February 14th.