- The Washington Times - Friday, July 17, 2020

Religious opponents of the death penalty are criticizing the federal government as it resumes executions this week.

“The death penalty is a sign of weakness, not strength,” tweeted out Sister Helen Prejean, a major opponent. “It shows that our society has failed to solve social problems. Capital punishment makes the U.S. a human rights pariah in the global community.”

On Tuesday, as the government executed its first convict in 17 years, more than 1,000 religious leaders — of Christian, Jewish and Buddhist denominations — signed a statement calling on President Trump and Attorney General William Barr to refrain from scheduling federal executions.

“As our country grapples with the COVID 19 pandemic, an economic crisis and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions,” reads the statement, signed by Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, Rev. Martin Field, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri; and Rabbi Eric Rosenstein of Temple Judea in Los Angeles.

Last month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement from Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, framing his opposition to capital punishment as a pro-life issue.

On Friday, Dustin Honken, 52, is scheduled to die by lethal injection in Terra Haute, Indiana, where Daniel Lewis Lee, was executed Tuesday — the first federal execution since 2003 — and Wesley Ira Purkey was put to death on Thursday.

Honken is a drug kingpin who was sentenced to death for killing five people, including two children, in an effort to beat his drug trafficking prosecution in 1993. He has been on death row since 2005.

It is exceedingly rare for the government to execute more than one inmate in a week, but it has happened.

In July 1938, murderer bank robber Anthony Chebatoris and kidnapper Henry Seadlund were put to death six days apart.

On Aug. 8, 1942, six men were executed by the federal government for espionage and attempted sabotage for Nazi Germany. They were killed by electrocution.

Next month, Keith Dwayne Nelson, who has been on death row since 2002, is scheduled to be executed, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

• Jeff Mordock contributed to this report

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