New anti-death penalty group formed

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Central Ohio clergy have formed a coalition dedicated to abolishing Ohio's death penalty.

The Interfaith Coalition to Stop Execution includes Protestants, Jews, Catholics and other religions. Many members have spent nights and weekends protesting the executions of inmates since Wilford Berry was put to death in 1999, the state's first execution since 1963.

They acknowledged it would be a struggle to convince lawmakers and even their own congregations to support their cause.

''No issue has a bigger gap, I'm told, between the pulpit and the pew than capital punishment,'' said the Rev. Richard Burnett, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, where the group held a Sept. 5 news conference.

Rep. James Trakas, an Independence Republican and death penalty opponent, said it was unlikely lawmakers would consider legislation to abolish capital punishment before next year's elections. Currently, there is little support for the idea in the House, Trakas said.

The coalition wants a moratorium placed on the death penalty immediately while they work to convince the Legislature to study the idea.

''Justice needs to be pursued with justice,'' Rabbi Howard Apothaker said. ''We believe there is no crime for which the taking of a human life by society is justified. That judgment needs to be left only to the divine.''

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