From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church leader urges states to follow Ryan on death cases

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Tue, 21 Jan 2003 15:02:53 -0600

Jan. 21, 2003	News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York

NOTE: A photograph of Jim Winkler is available at

By United Methodist News Service

Other states, along with the federal government, should follow the lead of
outgoing Illinois Gov. George Ryan in commuting the sentences of death row
inmates, according to the chief executive of the United Methodist Board of
Church and Society.

Ryan, a United Methodist, had halted state executions three years ago while
examining the fairness of the Illinois justice system. On Jan. 10, three days
before leaving office, he announced he was pardoning four prisoners awaiting
execution because he was convinced of their innocence. The next day, he
commuted the death sentences of 167 other inmates, and most of them will
serve life without parole instead.

"Gov. Ryan's decision is consistent with the United Methodist Social
Principles, which state that 'we oppose capital punishment and urge its
elimination from all criminal codes,'" said Jim Winkler in a statement
released Jan. 16 by the Board of Church and Society.

"Gov. Ryan's action corrected an injustice in the Illinois death penalty
system," he added. "It is time now for other states and the federal
government to follow Gov. Ryan's lead."

Winkler expressed regret that Congress has expanded the number of federal
crimes covered by the death penalty.

"Innocent people are being sent to death row and executed all over the
country," he said. "Our church has a long history of concern for the poor and
for minorities who have been executed without the opportunity to prove their
innocence or who have been denied the right to competent legal counsel. Our
prayer is that Gov. Ryan's decision will be seen as a watershed moment in the
movement to end the death penalty."

A revised resolution on capital punishment adopted by the 2000 United
Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, said
the church "cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for
taking human life. It violates our deepest belief in God as the creator and
redeemer of humankind. In this respect, there can be no assertion that human
life can be taken by the state. Indeed, in the long run, the use of the death
penalty by the state will increase the acceptance of revenge in our society
and will give official sanction to a climate of violence."

# # #

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home