The most influential member of the Catholic Church – the Pope – is someone who wields strong influence upon Catholic followers. During the tenure of late Pope John Paul, the broadcast and print media devoted much attention to John Paul’s proclamations on “abortion, divorce, gay rights, the death penalty, euthanasia, human cloning, and other controversial topics”. If Catholics had paid even a cursory attention to news pieces during his tenure, they might have understood the pope’s views on where public policies should be headed. When the pope proclaims his views, he also “judges and defines what is to be believed or rejected by all the faithful”. It is a failure on part of the Catholics of this country, to not attach weight to the views of its chief moral custodian in matters of “moral policy issues”. It needs to be added that the Catholic example is just one of many in America. Across religions, ethnicity and nativity, Americans when taken as followers of their respective religious faiths fall short of putting its principles to practice (Mulligan, 751).
Ever since the birth of this country, minorities in general and Black Americans in particular were subject to shoddy treatment at social, political and economic domains. Statistics show that the number of Black Americans prosecuted, convicted and executed is disproportionately high. Surely, to conclude that African Americans are racially corrupt would not only be scientifically incorrect but also morally inappropriate. Such an assessment would take America back to the days of Nazi Germany and the racial cleansing of the time. The African American assimilation into the American mainstream is a long, dark and saddening aspect of this country’s history. The right thing to do now would be to correct the aberration. Giving lethal injections to more and more number of Black Americans is equal to refusing to learn from history and against civil progress (Dennis, 175).
Looking at this issue from a systemic view point, it could be discerned that there are many laws that are disadvantageous to citizens involved in a certain ways of life. For example, most Black Americans resort to illegal drug trafficking for economic sustenance. This is more a failure on part of the American government to provide the basic support for this community and not as a result of the moral inferiority of the people involved. In other words, the so called “war on drugs” is essentially a “war on poor blacks”. Such patterns are evident in other areas of law as well including the capital punishment legislations. There is overwhelming proof that the judiciary (more particularly the jury) which is subject to indoctrination by conservative political ideologies makes judgments which are inevitably biased. The bias is not so much a conscious one as a sub-conscious inculcation. In this context, a review of the process of law-making and the process of arriving at court-house decisions need to be reviewed. Once this is done, not only is the number of death penalties bound to fall, but the proportion of minorities and immigrants would also lessen. The Omnibus Crime Act of 1991 is already a move in this direction. This important legislation contains a “racial justice provision” that allows people in death row “to challenge their sentence if they could show statistically that people of their race and within their jurisdiction were more likely to be charged with murder or sentenced to die” (Dennis, 176).
A significant political and legal justification behind the use of the capital punishment in the United States is the so-called “public support”. But, this argument is often based on single-item measures of public sentiment and opinion that have shown a wide support for capital punishment across the board. Yet, measuring death penalty attitudes and opinions are a complex process and adopting a single-item measure does not really capture all the complexities involved in the decision making. More importantly, it is believed by some experts that public support for death penalty would erode drastically once these complexities are elucidated to the survey participants. For example, Zaller (1992) states the following:
“Individuals hold not one but several attitudes about most issues. Furthermore, as respondents answer multiple questions on the same issue, they raise a greater number of pertinent considerations, which leads to a larger pool of information from which to draw for responses to later questions Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s argument against capital punishment captures the complexity of death penalty attitudes. He suggests that Americans know little about capital punishment, and he argues that support would decline if citizens had more knowledge about its application.” (Murray, 756)