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Execution Prayer Vigil to be Held This Week

July 9, 2007

Death row inmate Elijah Page is scheduled to die by lethal injection sometime this week, and members of South Dakota's faith community are coming together for a prayer vigil to express their opposition. Bishop Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl with the South Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America says the Association of Christian Churches of South Dakota opposes the state's death penalty laws. She says the church holds firm that the forgiveness of an individual is in God's hands.

“We strongly believe that for ourselves, and if it applies to us, then we see that it certainly can apply to others. Even those whose actions have been very egregious against society and are reprehensible in every way there ought to be consequence to those actions, but that the consequence falls short of the death penalty.”

DeGroot-Nesdahl calls the day the execution is carried out a sober one in South Dakota. She adds that, although some view the death penalty as an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, Christian doctrine says otherwise.

“We follow Jesus who says, 'But I show you a different way.'You turn the other cheek, and you look for what we have come to call now restorative justice. We continue in the hope that God can make all things new, including the hearts and the soles and minds of those who do commit terrible crimes.”

Ecumenical leaders from across the state will be participating in the prayer vigil on the day of the execution. It was postponed last August when Governor Rounds announced the state's two-drug injection method failed to meet legal standards. In the interim, the state legislature approved a change in the law that allows a lethal three-drug combination to be used.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD