WASHINGTON (RNS) Ralph Reed’s recent Road to Majority conservative confab in the nation’s capital had an unlikely exhibitor in the conference hall: opponents of the death penalty.

The activists were in the right place because their opposition stems from conservative principles. Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty believe that the faithful who gathered at the annual event hosted by Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition are ripe for embracing their critical view of capital punishment.

They have their work cut out for them. Yes, support for death penalties has been dropping in a Pew survey — from 78 percent in 1996 to 55 percent last year. But this barbaric practice still enjoys strong preference among conservatives, with 69 percent expressing support in a June ABC News/Washington Post poll. Only 49 percent of liberals agreed. Among Republicans, support is even higher — at 81 percent.

So what kind of reception did the activists receive? The group’s advocacy coordinator, Marc Hyden, told me the response was very positive.

“The myth we are trying to shatter is that conservatives all support the death penalty.” Hyden, who had worked for the National Rifle Association, said many people who approached the booth expressed support, while one man who didn’t was converted after Hyden laid out the conservative case against the death penalty.

“The case is simple,” he said. “Conservative policies are supposed to be … pro-life, fiscally responsible and limited government. We risk taking innocent life, it costs more than life without parole, and I can’t think of a bigger government program than one where you can kill your citizens.”

He rejected claims by death penalty supporters that it’s a deterrent to crime. He’s right. According to FBI data, the South accounts for more than 80 percent of U.S. executions but has the highest murder rate in the country.

Hyden also warned that conservatives should be concerned about the lack of transparency in the states carrying out executions. For example, Florida, Georgia and Missouri, which were first to resume lethal injections after a botched execution in Oklahoma in April, refuse to say where they get their drugs or even whether they are tested. Hyden asked, “Do we trust our government to have secrets like these?”

There are conservatives who have supported repeals of the death penalty in New Hampshire, Kentucky, Montana and South Dakota. Many conservatives who oppose the death penalty invoke their pro-life beliefs, such as Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative Christian law firm affiliated with Regent University in Virginia Beach.

Kirsten Powers portrait by Len Spoden Photography, courtesy of Kristen Powers.

Kirsten Powers portrait by Len Spoden Photography, courtesy of Kristen Powers.

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Sekulow said, “I’m opposed to the death penalty. … The taking of life is not the way to handle even the most significant of crimes.”

State Sen. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., echoed this sentiment in support of repealing the death penalty in his state. “Until we promote a culture of life … there will always be an argument to terminate life in one form or another,” he said.

Conservatives have a strong case on this issue. Hopefully, people will listen.

(Kirsten Powers writes weekly for USA Today.)




  1. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    According to surveys 8-10 guards are murdered each year by inmates who are usually already murderers. Before we do away with capital punishment some way to protect guards (and other inmates) needs to be found.
    But no one seems interested in who murderers murder–just end cap punishment and feel noble as blood flows in the prisons.
    This is an issue liberals, etc. usually refuse to debate or even face. Mustn’t rain on the feel-good parade.

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        The fate of prison guards at the hands of murderer inmates is very hard to find. The media doesn’t want it part of the debate. I suspected something was rotten about coverage on the cap. punishment issue when a prison guard was murdered by a murderer inmate. It was a big local issue because the original murder victim (a young store clerk) was from our area.
        Since there is a stat for everything on the internet, I started to look for the stat of prison guards and inmates murdered by lifers who in an earlier era would have been executed.
        But no one’s interested. Let them die to save mass murderers.
        I finally found the stat on one site–a prison guard’s union. They are the only ones who seem interested in guard’s (and others) lives in prison.

    • Any thought of doing things to alleviate prison overcrowding and dangerous conditions such as removal of mandatory sentencing for non violent drug charges, decriminalizing drug possession, or increased funding for actual rehabilitation programs is completely ignored. it’s really not like you care what happens once someone is locked up.

      Keep pushing the useless, very expensive, and counterproductive death penalty because it appeals to the nasty minded and sounds good in public speeches. Any thought of its deterrent effect is nothing more than wishful thinking and lame excuses for what is nothing more than base retribution. An alleged member of Christian clergy like you John should really aspire to something more moral and ethical than what amounts to legalized revenge.

      • Larry:


        New Testament Death Penalty Support Overwhelming


        OF COURSE THE DEATH PENALTY DETERS: A review of the debate

        • 1. I don’t give a crap what you think the bible has to say on any given legal subject.

          2. The death penalty has done zilch to lower crime in the decades (centuries) it has been in existence, it is applied in a blatantly discriminatory manner in this country. The deterrence argument is phony. There are better arguments for the death penalty.

          3. Iimiting the death penalty to the worst of the worst only: torture-murder, serial murder, contract killing, mass murder makes sense as retribution. The only applicable punishment for crimes beyond the pale of societal acceptance. It’s current use is far too broad. I don’t actually object to retribution in that sense. Just don’t sling dishonest bullcrap about deterrence.

          4. It is the height of hypocrisy to call a christian “pro life” when they support legalized killing. Then again Christian indifference or outright murderous hostility to people who they think are “impure” is well documented. Their concern for life has always been conditional and somewhat immoral in that sense.

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        I care about the human lives of guards and inmates–the one’s most likely to be murdered by lifers who butchered people and beat the “chair”.
        It is sad that liberals, so often like here, debate with insult and invective instead of with real facts about the issue at hand.
        An executed murderer does not get a chance to up his body count of guards.
        An executed murderer does not get a chance to up his body count of fellow inmates.
        But, hey, guards are only working stiffs. To paraphrase what rich liberal John Kerry said a few years ago it’s their own fault because they didn’t go to college.
        Some of the classic cases of murders in jail by lifers are Attica prison in NY, the Boston Strangler’, a defrocked priest in Ma.,–the list could go on and on.

        • Do you need a napkin to wipe off that bloodlusting drool from your face?

          You don’t really care about anyone less you can feign concern and attack others. The death penalty does nothing to make a guards life safer. You are just trying to justify a murderous hostility to others.

          Not crowding prisons would do that. But then again that requires real thought and plans. Not finger pointing and appeals to boorish base instincts. You don’t actually want a solution. Typical conservative, thinks fingerpointing is a substitute for ideas.

          The death penalty is far too broadly applied. It belongs to the worst of the worst. Not for felony murder, not for singular acts unless there was a level of sadism/torture involved. It is not deterrence. It is revenge. Call a spade a spade. Stop looking for excuses. Stop looking for Jesus to sign off on it. Be honest.

    • John:

      I hope this is helpful:

      The Death Penalty: Do Innocents Matter?
      A Review of All Innocence Issues

  2. CCATDP is owned and controlled by Equal Justice USA, a George Soros beneficiary.

    1) Few Conservatives Embrace Anti Death Penalty Deceptions

    “Some conservatives have morphed into anti death penalty advocates, displaying the common tendency of either blindly accepting false anti death penalty claims, with willful ignorance, or knowingly pushing deceptions, as does CCATDP, as detailed.”

    2) Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty: Just another dishonest anti death penalty group

    “CCATDP is but another anti death penalty group, whose claims are, easily, rebutted and which was founded and funded by a long time, well known liberal anti death penalty group, Equal Justice USA, which is supported by George Soros.”

  3. Some people NEED to die.
    That’s the fact of the matter.

    A refusal to acknowledge that, is naive and frail.
    Your average idiot citizen has never seen true evil, and thus can not contemplate the steps needed to countermeasure it.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      Herman Goering wasn’t an evil person. He just needed modern therapy. Dr. Mengele wasn’t evil–he just wanted to do medical research. Adolph Eichmann wasn’t a mass murderer–just a misunderstood mousey bureaucrat. Joseph Goebbels wasn’t an agitator for murder–just a frustrated Pulitzer prize writer.
      And Hitler wasn’t a power hungry person–he just wanted to rule the world to make it a better place.

    • But most people on death row are not true evil. We execute people far too easily and in a far too discriminatory manner. It should belong to only the worst of the worst. It is not deterrence, it is retribution. Nothing wrong with that, just don’t sugarcoat it with phony claims of stopping crime. Don’t claim you are pro-life but support it. Be honest.

  4. When libs and progressives begin to defend the right to life of unborn children I’ll start to listen to their arguments for a culture of life for convicted murders and their ilk.

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