February 18, 2019
Dear Members of the House Committee on Criminal Justice:
I write you in support of House Bill 455 to repeal the Death Penalty in New Hampshire.
The Death Penalty is morally repugnant because it makes us all complicit in homicide. The Death Penalty is ineffective as a deterrent to capital crimes. The Death Penalty is an obscene waste of public resources that could otherwise advance more wholesome duties of good government; for instance, in addressing the ever-growing gap in educational opportunity in the Granite State or enhancing our response to mental illness and our continuing opioid crisis.
Though as a Christian bishop, I am careful to apply pastoral theology or scriptural teaching to a public political process, I am led to do so because of the distortion of Christian teaching put forward by supporters of the Death Penalty. I have heard legislators in these halls tell me that Jesus’ own execution at the hands of the state serves as sufficient justification for the state’s perpetuation of this inhumane practice. “Just look at all the good that came out of the crucifixion,” I have been told. Such reasoning defies logic and reflects a toxic perversion of the Gospel message, the clear heart of which is that violence and hatred are not overcome, conquered or transformed by more acts of violence, but by the power of mercy.
When we put to death, even criminals who have committed heinous and contemptible acts, we do little but show how evil has succeeding in ensnaring us and in drawing us deeper into pernicious web of increasing malice, hatred and violence. We move closer to committing the very heinous and contemptible atrocities that those who have been convicted for the very inhumanity we condemn.
Alternatively, it is the hard work and high calling of good and sound government to prevent and protect society from being contaminated by this lethal dynamic. I urge, hope and pray that this legislature will not shirk its obligation to this hard, moral work and high calling and will finally Repeal the Death Penalty in our Great State of New Hampshire. Please put our money to more wholesome purposes. Much more importantly, save our consciences from the high and brutal cost of the moral injury capital punishment inflicts on us all.
The Rt. Rev. A. Robert Hirschfeld
Bishop of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire