By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE calls by Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese Patrick Pinder for regional legislators to abolish the death penalty, another religious leader has come forward with demands for the enforcement of capital punishment.
In a detailed statement to the press on Monday, Citizens for Justice (CFJ) Chairman and local bishop, Walter Hanchell said he disagrees with the archbishop’s position on the issue, calling it “biblically and morally” contrary to scripture.
Bishop Hanchell, of Great Commission Ministries, said his church
remains a firm supporter of “restorative justice” for all those convicted of crimes other than murder.
For those convicted of murder, Bishop Hanchell said they ought to “suffer the penalty of death for their crimes as prescribed by law”.
Archbishop Pinder, last week, in a joint pastoral statement from the Bishops of the Antilles Episcopal Conference (AEC) in commemoration of the Catholic Church’s Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, urged governments and citizens in the region to abolish capital punishment. Nineteen bishops signed the statement.
The statement said to take away a person’s “basic right to immunity from fatal harm” is to “compromise his/her sacred dignity”.
However, responding to these claims on Monday, Bishop Hanchell suggested that capital punishment was not an act conceived in the mind of any human being, but was an act instituted by God according to scripture to “punish and remove” murderers from society.
“It was never meant to be a deterrent even though studies show that it most certainly is,” wrote Bishop Hanchell.
“Cries that capital punishment is inhumane and barbaric in the twenty first century are irrational when we consider that God has not changed and his word, which is His will for mankind, certainly has not changed and never will.
“The Holy Bible in both the Old Testament and the New Testament commands that persons guilty of committing the crime of murder be punished by death. God is both a God of love and a God of justice.
“All moral laws, including capital punishment, have their root in the Bible. A close study of scripture will reveal that the death penalty was always mandatory except in cases of accidental or intentional death. The word of God is clear concerning punishment for murder and no bishop, government, parliament, judiciary or agency such as Amnesty International, has the power or authority to overrule the laws of God,” he added.
Bishop Hanchell said rather than advocate for the removal of a law, perhaps religious and political leaders should look at the plight of the thousands of children who are left fatherless and the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones because of senseless killings.
“If you believe that human life is a sacred gift from God, then why is the life of a wicked murderer more precious than that of his innocent victim? Nobody has the right to take a life except the state in capital offences.”
Analysing the issue from a political perspective, Bishop Hanchell noted that despite the valiant efforts of the police force, the government and legislators have intentionally refused to enforce the laws of the Bahamas to the detriment of all who live here.
“The ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government led by Prime Minister Perry Christie did not carry out a single execution during their first term in office from 2002 to 2007. While serving as the Leader of the Opposition in 2011, Mr Christie declared his party’s support for capital punishment. Despite record murder statistics in the current term, not a single person has been executed for the hundreds of brutal murders that have been committed in the Bahamas over the past 15 plus years.”
The last time capital punishment was carried out was in 2000.
Bishop Hanchell said politicians who were elected to enforce the law have failed “miserably in this endeavour.”
He added: “In March 2006, the Privy Council ruled that the mandatory death sentence was unconstitutional. Members of Citizens For Justice believe that this ruling was flawed since the Constitution of The Bahamas clearly makes capital punishment legal.
“Capital punishment has long been abolished in the United Kingdom and most of Europe and we are of the view that members of the Privy Council have attempted to bring an end to the practice in The Bahamas.”
In June 2011, the Privy Council overturned Maxo Tido’s death sentence in connection with the killing of 16-year-old Donnell Connover, whose body was found off Cowpen Road, battered and bruised and her skull crushed. There was additional evidence that parts of her body were burned after her death
But the Privy Council concluded that the murder was not an example of the “worst of the worst.”
In November 2011, Parliament passed legislation to define the types of murder constituting the “worst of the worst” guidelines set out by the London court.
Bishop Hanchell added: “A simple legal definition of what the ‘worst of the worst’ or the ‘rarest of the rare’ has caused cold-blooded killers to have their death sentences commuted to life in prison and many are walking the streets because of technicalities in our justice system.”
He said it remains a mystery why Parliament has not addressed this extremely important national concern.
“We are calling again on the government to defend the Constitution of The Bahamas and for Prime Minister Christie to deliver on his promise to the Bahamian people to resume capital punishment. Citizens For Justice also calls for the removal of the Privy Council as our final Court of Appeal.”