Local faith leaders react to recent executions in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Local faith leaders are reacting to the state’s second lethal injection since executions resumed in October. Some are calling for the end of the death penalty in the state, while others say it’s completely justified within scripture.

The Rev. Dr. Shannon Fleck, Oklahoma Conference of Churches Executive Director, is one of those who wants to abolish the death penalty.

“For the state to say it’s ok to commit a murder regardless of what has happened is anti-biblical,” she said. “How do we live with ourselves as people of faith if we are signing up to take a life as a collective?”

She acknowledges any debate using scripture can be difficult, but she says she believes the overall message of the Bible is one of acceptance and forgiveness.

“It’s very challenging to have conversations based in scripture because it conflicts within itself so often,” she said.

“The one thing I stand firm on is that the heart of everything that exists in scripture is love, acceptance, embrace of neighbor and caring for one another. And if we take that heart and soul of the Bible as that…then the State of Oklahoma is not operating within that theological context.”

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Oklahoma faith leaders have diverse opinions on state-sponsored executions.

The Rev. Dr. Larry Crudup of Larry T. Crudup Ministries agrees.

“I think we as believers must come down strongly,” he said. “We should never take a life because we are not God…we have to turn our attention to eradicating the death penalty, period, not only in this state but in this nation.”

But others, like Putnam City Baptist Church Pastor Bill Hulse, point directly to the scripture.

“God gave to Moses way before he gave them the tablets, he said, ‘This is one thing that is vitally important — life is sacred,'” he said. “‘And if man messes with my design, he will suffer the consequences.'”

He says there are principles for people and separate responsibilities for society.

“They’ll say, ‘Well, we’re supposed to forgive our enemies’; well those are true truths, but those are truths that were given to us as individuals and how we practice our life,” he said. “Then there are civic laws, laws that are designed to govern man. We have to make sure we accurately handle those and not convolute that truth to where we have chaos.”

Sooner Rose Baptist Church Pastor Douglas Bell says the idea of removing someone from society is instilled throughout the Bible and the history of this country.

“If you put a rotten fruit in a basket of good fruit it’s gonna affect the good fruit,” he said. “It’s for the preservation for the whole society whether it is life without parole or the death penalty, and that’s again going back to our principles and the laws as our country was being formed.”

He also points to specific scripture that he says lays it out clearly.

“[The Bible says] he that smites a man so that he dies should be put to death,” he said. “[Incarceration or capitol punishment] is for the preservation of society and the principles are there, Old and New Testament.”

All four acknowledged that people can cherry pick when having conversations about the Bible. But they say this conversation is important to have, even if it’s difficult.

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