A recent Amnesty International (AI) report caught my attention in which they call for the death sentence of a convicted murderer in Texas to be commuted because “jurors used Biblical passages supporting the death penalty to help them decide whether he should live or die.” According to AI, “the jurors' use of the Bible during their sentencing deliberations raises serious questions about their impartiality.”
Two points I need to make before I write any further. First, let it be known that I respect the work of AI very much and so this blog should not be seen as an attack on AI as an organization or a criticism of anyone who is a member of this organization. I find much of their work laudable and their advocacy practices are exemplary.
Second, it should be remembered that AI is, by principle, opposed to the death penalty for any reason. Hence, they would be calling for this sentence to be commuted regardless of the reason. But the rationale for their conclusion in this case goes beyond this basic conviction, it seems to me. If AI’s logic is to be followed, Christian jurists need to put aside their biblical convictions when deliberating on cases or, on the other hand, all Bible-believing Christians should be excused as being ineligible to serve on juries because they might just happen to recall some biblical teaching that applies to the case that they might be asked to hear.
The fact is, true faith is not something that can be privatized or pushed off into the closet whenever it is inconvenient or when it might actually impact on “real life”. Faith is not just an accessory. Any attempt to make it such must be resisted for what it is; a subtle but real attempt to infringe on religious liberty.