The Abolitionist New  
Vol. 1, No. 3
March 2013
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The Powerful Effect Of A Butterfly
            Many of my childhood memories are centered on humid Southern nights, sitting under a circus-style tent in a freshly mowed field of yellow bells, with hastily strung light bulbs being buzzed by bull bats, and the air redolent with the smell of brimstone emanating from a revivalist preacher.


            In one these sermons, the itinerate minister tried to describe eternity. He stated that if a butterfly, one of the most fragile creatures on earth, were to pass by the highest mountain in the world once a year and slightly brush its wing against the mountain, that eternity would just be beginning when the mountain was worn evenly with the ground due to the butterfly's annual touching. This apologue relates directly to the fight to end the death penalty.


            This insatiable maw of death is still being fed in the United States, despite some encouraging signs in some states that abolition of the death penalty is a legislative priority. In the last thirty days, the State of Georgia executed Andrew Allen Cook, and the State of Texas executed Carl Henry Blue. Another Georgia inmate, judged mentally challenged by all doctors who have evaluated him, was granted a stay of execution thirty minutes before his execution. His lawyers must now prove that he is mentally disabled "beyond all reasonable doubt", a standard unique to Georgia.


            Why do Christians allow the death penalty to continue? Why aren't Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and all other branches of U.S. Christendom in the halls of the respective state legislatures demanding that the death penalty be repealed? How can inaction be justified?


            The Episcopal Church has a long-standing history of opposition to the death penalty. What, however, is being done by the church--nationally, diocesan or parish level--to implement the resolutions passed by the church's governing bodies? High-toned sentiment and poetic words are useless unless there are actions to implement the resolutions.


            The call to abolish capital punishment is a life and death matter. Our failure to eradicate this vestige of our less civilized past will cause people to die, many of whom are innocent. The states with capital punishment are not going to have a Damascus road experience, unless political pressure is brought to bear.


            Like the mountain and the butterfly, persistent and virtually imperceptible action by the states will eventually result in the death of the 3,146 people currently on death row. Christians have to emerge from the cocoon of indifference and end  the death penalty--now!

Ronald T. Clemmons


Death Penalty Abolition Action Group 



"The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners 
and release those condemned to death." 
Psalms 102: 19-20


Visiting Prisoner
 From 1843
Edition Of BCP

Liturgy For Prisoners In Early BCP


           The Episcopal Church formalized Jesus' command to visit prisoners through a liturgy first printed in the 1786 edition of the Book of Common Prayer.


            Entitled "The Visitation of Prisoners," this portion of the BCP gave priests a liturgy to follow when visiting in prisons, including detailed instructions on reconciling prisoners facing immediate execution.


            The liturgy also contained a prayer for people imprisoned because they could not pay their debts. Priest intoned, "Give to their creditors tenderness and compassion, and to them a meek and forgiving spirit towards all those who have confined them, and a full purpose to repair all the injuries and losses which others have sustained by them." 


            The entire liturgy is available at the The Visitation of Prisoners.

Time Simply Ran Out For These Men 
            Unfulfilled good intentions are oftentimes the issues that keep people awake at night. It's those small acts of kindness that we intended to do for a sick friend or family member, but in the hustle of our own lives, we never get around to to doing. Many times a low-grade guilt follows us for years.

            Each day that passes without the death penalty being abolished is potentially the last day on earth for someone housed in state sponsored charnel houses. In 2013, five men have alread been put to death across the country: 
Antique Clock 4     








    Robert Gleason






    Carl Blue




      Lethal Injection


    Andrew Cook




      Lethal Injection


    Frederick Treesh




      Lethal Injection


    Ray Thacker




      Lethal Injection

            Unless we get to work, rather than dawdling about becoming involved in the crusade to end the death penalty, the list of dead will continue to grow.
            Last year 42 people were executed in the United States. How many will die this year due to unfulfilled good intentions? 
Police Chiefs Rank Death Penalty Low Deterrent

            The graph below shows the results of a 2008 poll of 500 police chiefs in the United States, conducted by R.T. Strategies of Washington, DC. Police chiefs ranked the death penalty last when asked to name one area as "most important for reducing violent crime." Higher priorities included increasing the number of police officers, reducing drug abuse, and creating a better economy.



            A study of the deterrence value of the death penalty focused on whether the death penalty deterred the murder of police officers. The researchers surveyed a thirteen year period of police homicides. 


            The study concluded "we find no consistent evidence that capital punishment influenced police killings during the 1976-1989 period. . . . [P]olice do not appear to have been afforded an added measure of protection against homicide by capital punishment." (W. Bailey and R. Peterson, Murder, Capital Punishment, and Deterrence: A Review of the Evidence and an Examination of Police Killings, 50 Journal of Social Issues 53, 71 1994)


            Information courtesy of Death Penalty Information Center.