In 2015, Nebraska’s iconic and non-theistic State Sen. Ernie Chambers proposed repealing the death penalty for the 38th time in his career. The previous 37 hadn’t been successful, but getting rid of the barbaric punishment had always been one of Chambers’ goals, and this time, it actually seemed to work.
There were enough legislators to pass the bill — and enough legislators to override Republican Governor Pete Ricketts‘ eventual veto. (In 1979, a similar bill passed the legislature, but there were not enough votes to override the governor’s veto.)
But the victory was short-lived. Conservatives found another way to satisfy their bloodlust by getting a death penalty measure on the ballot, giving voters a chance to reinstate it. Those voters passed the measure in overwhelming numbers on the same night Donald Trump was elected. The death penalty was back.
Earlier today, State Sen. Megan Hunt (the other openly non-theistic legislator in the state) posted the daily “Erniegram” which Chambers distributes to his colleagues. Today’s issue reproduces an essay he wrote more than a decade ago pointing out that, according to Christians, “only Jesus is ‘qualified’ to carry out a death sentence if it is to be carried out at all.”
Today LB44, a bill from Senator Chambers to end the death penalty, is on the agenda. Here is his #Erniegram for the day.It’s a good day to watch your Nebraska Legislature: https://t.co/i7bZgjAflH #NELeg pic.twitter.com/IzHijUUbda
— Senator Megan Hunt (@NebraskaMegan) April 24, 2019
This particular bill comes a year after Nebraska executed a man using a “never-before-tried combination of drugs.” Prison officials refused to say where they got the ingredients from, leading to lawsuits over their handling of public records. Somehow, they made a gruesome practice even worse.
Chambers is right and courageous to keep fighting this battle. Maybe this year, sensible legislators will be able to overcome every obstacle thrown at them by right-wing Christians who claim to be “pro-life” while celebrating the state’s ability to murder.
Sen. Hunt admitted the chances of the bill’s passage this year are “slim to none.” (Even though the state’s unicameral legislature is famously non-partisan, there is effectively a Republican majority.) Still, it’s another chance for legislators to go on the record on the issue of the death penalty — and another chance for voters to use that information when those legislators are back on the ballot.
(Screenshot via YouTube)