Trump-loving megachurch pastor and author Robert Jeffress took to Twitter on Sunday to express his disagreement with Pope Francis, who released a statement last week clarifying the Catholic Church’s anti-capital punishment position. The Pope noted that “there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.”
Jeffress—who is not Catholic—would seem to have a different interpretation of scripture. He sent out a promoted tweet to make that clear.
Aside from his close relationship with Donald Trump, Jeffress is known for his extreme homophobia, his belief that Jews and Muslims will go to hell, and his frequent justifications for the Trump administration’s atrocities.
Look—no one is pretending that the Catholic Church doesn’t suck. They are responsible for the lack of legal abortion in most of Latin America, and are one reason why AIDS spread unchecked through Africa, to just list a few of their gigantic missteps. Let’s not even get into covering up child sex abuse. But at the very least, with this statement from Pope Francis, conservative Catholic lawmakers are more likely to work on dismantling capital punishment in the U.S., a blight on our justice system that puts us among some of the worst human rights abusers in the world.
Republicans like Washington State Senator Mark Miloscia took Pope Francis’ words as affirmation that ending capital punishment (which he’s trying to do in his home state) is right. “It’s a big moment,” he told NBC (which misidentified him as “Mike”). “The Catholic Church has been moving in this direction for the last 30 years to be truly pro-life across the board and be clear about our teachings to protect all human life from conception to natural death — and that includes abolishing the death penalty.”
“When that many people from that many different viewpoints came together amid the political hostility of late, it’s really refreshing to see that we can agree,” New Hampshire State Senator Kevin Avard, a Republican, told NBC. “And we do. It’s hazardous to ignore that.” Avard sponsored a bill to end executions in the state along with 12 other policy makers of diverse political backgrounds.
Regardless of your religious views, research shows that the death penalty in America is a shaky moral proposition, to put it mildly. Many studies have shown that black defendants are much more likely to be sentenced to death than white defendants accused of the same crime. Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1973, 162 death row inmates have been exonerated. Only eight countries are known to have executed more people than us in 2017, including China and Saudi Arabia. Maybe it’s time for us to give it a rest.