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United Methodists Oppose Electric Chair Law -- John Dunn

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The debate over Tennessee's death penalty has intensified. A group of United Methodists want Governor Haslam to reconsider the possible use of the electric chair in executions. Some clergy leaders say the state should not execute anyone, and they say the electric chair is barbaric.

They are songs often heard on Sunday morning, but the message isn't for a congregation, it is directed toward Governor Haslam. "He doesn't have my permission to execute and render state sponsored violence on behalf of me or my congregation," says Adam Kelchner with Belmont United Methodist Church.
   
Monday's prayer vigil comes after Governor Haslam signed a new law. Beginning July 1, Tennessee will be able to use its electric chair in the event that lethal injection drugs are not available. United Methodists oppose all forms of capital punishment, but it's the electric chair that prompted this response. "It is a particularly barbaric and cruel form of punishment," says Matthew Kelly with Arlington UMC.

Nashville area Bishop William McAlilly has written an open letter to the Governor asking him to reconsider the new law. There is also an online petition which already has several hundred signatures. Pastor Kaye Harvey, who has visited with death row inmates, says she is here to give a voice to the prisoners. "And I know this is a very conflicted issue. I also know that life is life, and life is sacred," says Harvey with Edgehill UMC.

While most here are against the death penalty, Brenda Tindall came to challenge the United Methodists with a different view. She says she feels for victims and their families. "There are some things that Christ does believe in, and he wants people to pay penance for what they do," says Tindall.

Clergy members are resolved in their belief that capital punishment is wrong. They are hoping their prayers and songs echo on Capitol Hill.
    
Governor Haslam's office released a brief statement saying he signed the bill after it was passed overwhelmingly by the General Assembly. His office is giving no indication that he will reconsider his decision.

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