Not all conservatives support capital punishment, but one who used to be anti-death penalty and later changed his mind on the subject wants the world to know that some still do.
Last month, TheBlot Magazine profiled Marc Hyden, national advocacy coordinator for Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCATDP), an activist group that works on both the state and national level to promote the position that capital punishment is not line with the spirit of conservative values.
“[It’s] not pro-life, fiscally responsible or representative of limited government,” Hyden told the site. “It fails to deter crime, harms murder victims’ friends and family members.”
But Dudley Sharp disagrees. Sharp is a self-described death penalty expert, independent activist and formerly the vice president, political director and chairman of Justice For All (JFA), a criminal justice reform organization based in Houston. After taking an anti-death penalty position for many years, Sharp changed his views on the controversial subject.
“I was anti-death penalty until 1995,” Sharp told TheBlot last week. “In 1993, I was on the board of directors of Justice For All. At a board meeting, our president, Pam Lychner, asked if anyone would be interested in becoming knowledgeable about the death penalty.”
After reading volumes on the subject, doing independent research and exploring the issue in depth, Sharp decided to change his mind about the death penalty. Asked to outline his position on the ultimate punishment, Sharp said, “I support the death penalty for two reasons: The first and primary reason is the same reason that folks support all sanctions — justice — that the guilty party is given a sanction that is appropriate for that crime. The second and very important reason for my support is that the death penalty also saves innocent lives in three ways, better than does life without parole.”
The Death Penalty: Morals vs. Justice
As the debate on the merits of the death penalty continues, some consistently red states have reversed long-held positions on the issue. In 2015, Nebraska became the most recent red state to abolish the death penalty, but 31 others still have execution laws on the books.
As a conservative Christian faith informs Hyden’s belief that it is morally wrong to execute people, Sharp’s position is also informed by spirituality and thousands of years of religious doctrine, he said.
“There has been solid Christian support for the death penalty for over 2,000 years,” Sharp said. “Some mainline Christian churches began to take a position against the death penalty starting in the late 1950s. Did the Bible or basic theology suddenly change? No, what has changed is that secular liberalism has had a great deal of influence on many of the churches.”
Sharp also objects to the position advocated by CCATDP that the death penalty does not protect life, which to Hyden and many other conservatives is a deeply held value that influences his position. Instead, Sharp argues that it does in fact deter crime and better protects life.
Sharp is also bluntly critical of CCATDP for disguising itself as a conservative advocacy organization. He believes it is not.
Noah Zuss is a reporter for TheBot Magazine.