The U.S. bishops are urging Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to sign an anti-death penalty law after weeks of indecision on the state leader's part, saying that the legislation would help build a “culture of life in our country.”
“Respect for life applies to all, even the perpetrators of terrible acts,” Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California wrote to Gov. Quinn on March 3. Bishop Stockton serves as chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development for the U.S. Bishops' Conference.
The landmark Senate Bill 3539 abolishing the death penalty passed through the Illinois legislature in January and now awaits Gov. Quinn’s approval.
At an event at the University of Illinois on Jan. 19, Gov. Quinn says he'd like feedback from the citizens of Illinois before he decides whether to sign the legislation. He added that he is currently going through a period of what he called “reflection and review” and has not indicated when he will make a decision. According to local news outlets, the governor has until March 18 to sign the bill into law before it takes effect without his signature.
“On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I join the Catholic bishops of Illinois and urge you to sign SB 3539,” Bishop Blaire said in a letter to Gov. Quinn.
The Stockton bishop added that the legislation would not only end the use of the death penalty in Illinois but also provide funds for training law enforcement personnel and providing services to families of murder victims.
Bishop Blaire also noted in his letter to the governor that Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, “called for the end to the use of the death penalty as a sign of greater respect for all human life.”
His letter also drew from the U.S. Bishops' Conference 2009 document “In A Culture of Life and the Penalty of Death,” which says that even “when people deny the dignity of others, we must still recognize that their dignity is a gift from God and is not something that is earned or lost through their behavior.”
“The legislation before you would help to begin building a culture of life in our country,” he said.