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Testimony on Texas HB 1527: A Bill to Abolish the Death Penalty

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Thank you. My name is Rev. Dr. Jeff Hood. I am the Minister of Social Justice for Hope for Peace and Justice…which is the social justice ministry of a consortium of churches in the Dallas area…and I sit on the Board of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. I am here to speak in support of House Bill 1527.

I am here to talk with you a little bit about Jesus. Y’all ok with that? I am also very tired. I am the father of five children under the age of three. We have two sets of twins and a single. This morning in Denton, I woke up early at my home and expected no one to be up. Peeking around the corner, I encountered my redheaded three-year-old son named Phillip. Since I knew I was heading down here, I thought I would engage Phillip on the death penalty. I asked Phillip, “What should I tell these folks in Austin about the death penalty? Why is our family opposed to the death penalty? We are Christians…” Without hesitation, Phillip replied, “We don’t want to kill people.” My three-year-old son is wise enough to know that the death penalty is a basic violation of human conscience…but even more for my family and I…we know that the death penalty is more specifically a violation of the Christian conscience.

So let’s talk about Jesus… Jesus was present at two potential executions. The first execution was a woman who was caught in the very act of committing a capital offense. As this woman was about to be executed, Jesus stepped between her and her executioners. So, Jesus stopped the first possible execution he ever encountered. The second execution Jesus was at was his own. Unless you believe that Jesus should have been executed, the execution of Jesus is what could have happened to our dear brother Anthony Graves…the execution of an innocent man.

Jesus lived his life in a way that shows us that executing people is wrong. Therefore, for those who follow Jesus…the death penalty is a fundamental violation of Christian conscience. We love to talk about religious liberty in this state. I mean I feel like all I hear out of Austin these days is talk of religious liberty. Well, the death penalty is a violation of the religious liberty of Christians all over this state. This practice of execution is turning us Christians into killers. You can’t follow Jesus and kill people. I can’t follow Jesus and be for life…and consistently be implicated in our dreadful system of executions.

Jesus commanded us, “Love your neighbor as your self.” Folks, you cannot love your neighbor as your self and kill people…period. We have got to stop our addiction to killing.

Everybody wants to talk about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…if we followed this practice, all of you would be blind and toothless…as would all of us. We don’t live in such a way and it is foolish to keep talking in such a way.

I invite you to consider what Phillip told me this morning, “We don’t want to kill people.” I don’t want to kill people. You don’t want to kill people. We don’t want to kill people. That is a very human statement…but it is also the Gospel.

Amen.

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