Texas Faith 18: Are Texans immoral for supporting the death penalty?

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

The storm over the Cameron Todd Willingham case has focused public

attention on the death penalty and stirred debate in the Texas governor’s

race. Willingham was executed in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his

three children. He maintained until his death that he was innocent, and

evidence in the case presents a mixed picture. Several independent experts

have challenged whether it was arson. The governor and the prosecutor are

confident he was guilty.

In Texas, more than 400 people have been executed since capital punishment

was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Ours is the busiest death

chamber in the nation – and Texans overwhelmingly back the death penalty.

Polls indicate that nearly three-quarters of Texans support capital


What is the moral dimension? Supporters say the question is not whether

the state is justified in taking a life, but when – for example, in

self-defense or in order to save someone else’s life. There is the

argument of deterrence. And justice – "an eye for an eye."

Opponents make two arguments: 1) the death penalty is immoral and 2) the

death penalty is flawed because an innocent person could be put to death.

So here’s the question: Is it moral to support capital

The responses from our Texas Faith panelistsare varied, provocative and well worth reading amid this political and faith-based debate:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

Everything has its proper utility, and a man who is situated in complete knowledge of the self knows how and where to apply a thing for its proper utility. Similarly, violence also has its utility, and how to apply violence rests with the person in full knowledge of the eternality of the self. Although the justice of the peace awards capital punishment to a person condemned for murder, the justice of the peace cannot be blamed, because he orders violence to another person according to the codes of justice. In the Vedic scriptures it is supported that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer for the great sin he has committed. Therefore, the government’s punishment of hanging a murderer is actually beneficial. Such a sinful person who has murdered is better suffering in this life rather than greater sufferings in his next lives. A surgical operation is not meant to kill the patient, but to cure him.

Capital punishment also stands as a powerful deterrent for future criminals. Politicians, afraid of being implicated in their own laws, often shy away from a strong stance.

Hare Krishna 🙂

Your humble servant,

Nityananda Chandra Das

To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here


Wed, 10/28/2009 – 04:45 — bhaktincarol

bhaktincarol's picture

this man told others about Krishna

Hare Krsna.

In 2002, a man struck me with his hand. He then fled and left me. Although he did not kill me, doctors felt I came close to dying.

After his attack, I spent four months in hospitals and nursing homes. A filter was placed below my heart. Doctors removed my spleen, part of my stomach, and part of my pancreas. I was fed through a tube that was inserted into my intestines through an incision they made in my skin. I received fluids through an IV in a blood vessel in my neck. I went through medical tests; days of transfusions; they drained the bloody fluid from my abdomen repeatedly, one time draining eleven quarts from my body; they did surgeries to explore and examine tissue. I was in an apparatus that would compress and help the blood move through my legs; my nose would repeatedly bleed from the shifting of oxygen tubes; there were tubes inserted through other incisions they made on both sides of my body to drain fluid. When I first arrived they said I was ‘terminal,’ after weeks and surgery they released me to a nursing home with the prognosis ‘very grim and possibly terminal.’

I forgave the man who injured me (though I’m not sure if ‘forgave’ is the right word, as I did not feel resentment toward him – I was thinking more in a future sense, that I intended to not bring up any worry about it and not hold any resentment). I thought about the choice I had whether or not to bring charges against him. From what I understand, he could have received up to life in prison if he were convicted. I chose not to bring charges.

A year and a half after I got out of the hospital, this man who had not attended any temple or church since his childhood went with me to the temple in Dallas. We arrived for the arati. He smelled the flower that had been offered, and saw the deities. Then, he took prasadam.

Some time after that, he was put in prison for a different reason. He wrote to me that he was praying to Lord Krishna. I sent him pictures of the deities in Dallas, and of devotees serving prasadam in the mountains. He wrote back that he had shared these pictures with many other inmates. He said many were eager to see the pictures. He told the other men about Krishna.


Wed, 10/28/2009 – 05:21 — Karnamrita.das

Karnamrita.das's picture

Complex subject matters

Personally, whether we speak of abortion or the death penalty, although it seems on the face of it a very cut and dry position to take, in real life it is not so simple. If we really consider all the arguments people bring up and the different circumstances, it makes it difficult to say unequivocally in all circumstances, this is our position. We can state the general philosophy behind our position, though I don’t think we should be protesting at abortion clinics or glorifying the death penalty as always justified. Discretion is the better part of valour. In my estimation, if we are to be taken seriously by thoughtful people, we have to demonstrate that we are. We have to show that although we have our preferred standards, we show flexibility in varying circumstances. Otherwise we will be seen as just another fanatical religion.

Your friend in Krishna,