Gov. Quinn has recently asked for input from the citizens of this state on their preferences regarding the potential termination of the death penalty in Illinois. I’m using this forum to urge the governor to do precisely that, without further delay.

Indeed, those in the current state Legislature who support this step constitute a broad range across regional and political distinctions — from areas urban and rural, and from persuasions liberal to conservative. Sen. Harmon’s comments noting the potential, and capricious, “removal” of the death penalty threat by prosecutors in order to extract confessions from those presumed guilty of murder is just one example of how the penalty has led to wrongful convictions in Illinois and elsewhere.

Lastly, the demographic composition who now sit on death row in American prisons — largely the poor and persons of color — suggests the racism implicit in the system that has condemned them. I’m the minister at one of the two Unitarian Universalist congregations in the area served by the Wednesday Journal, which have passed unanimous resolutions in support of ending the death penalty. Both congregations have thus claimed that prison executions are abhorrent to the “individual worth and dignity of every human,” a central tenet of our faith.

I join all those across Illinois, of any faith or no faith, politically engaged or otherwise, whose sense of fairness and decency is offended by the history of the death penalty in this country. And I believe the governor has all the information he needs to render a just decision. Perhaps input like mine and others will give him the will to do it.

Rev. Brian Covell
Minister, Third Unitarian Church of Chicago

The persistent and loving work of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has convinced our Illinois state representatives and senators to pass a bill to end the death penalty in Illinois. This work spanned over three decades and received support from many local religious people, and some
congregations, as well as other secular organizations. Now is the time to complete this work.

On Jan. 11, the Illinois Senate sent Senate Bill 3539 to Gov. Quinn’s desk for a signature that will turn the bill into law and repeal the death penalty. This hasn’t happened yet. The governor is wavering on his decision to sign the bill, and has indicated that he would like to hear from the people of Illinois before picking up the pen.

So let him hear from the people of Illinois! Call the governor’s office right now and say, “I’m from (city, state), and I want Gov. Quinn to sign the bill to repeal the death penalty.” His Chicago office can be reached at 312-814-2121 or the Springfield office at 217-782-0244. Make your voice part of the chorus for justice and compassion.

Beverley Walter, Roger Beltrami and Rich Pokorny
Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice

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