The Athenaeum Extends Another Foolish Invitation

It’s not every day that I get to beat up on a nun, so here goes. Truthfully, I’m about as agnostic as you can get on spiritual matters, but I do believe that everyone retains a right to distinguish right from wrong.

The Athenaeum was wrong to invite yet another left-wing speaker to the 5Cs.

Apparently Athenaeum Director Bonnie Snortum gets paid to impose her views on the rest of us. This semester, there have been three activists for homosexual rights. This coming semester, we’ve got Sister Helen Prejean, a radical nun who adamantly opposes capital punishment. But, unlike the speakers on gay rights, a subject that has credibly been in the news as of late, there’s little to no evidence that public opinion has shifted on her cause, the death penalty, since at least 2002.

Prejean’s past is full of outlandish statements and contradictory positions; she is an inappropriate choice for a speaker.

For instance, on the execution of the thuggish Stanley “Tookie” Williams, she said, “One way to show remorse is just say, ‘I am so sorry I killed those people.’ Another way to show remorse is with your life, what you do with your life. And look what he’s done with his.”

What had he done with his? Williams was anything but a model prisoner. He threatened jurors and called them “sons of bitches,” he got into dozens of fights while in prison, he remained a lifelong gang member, and he refused to apologize for the murders until he died. He even laughed about how he killed a 7-Eleven clerk. He also murdered an entire family for about 120 bucks. Oh, and he wrote some children’s books, which never sold. He also got nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and you know they only give those out to people that warrant them.

If her defense of a man like Williams weren’t enough, Prejean, in a debate with Dennis Prager that occurred on “Larry King Live,” could not bring herself to endorse the execution of Adolf Eichmann, who ordered the execution of at least three million Jews. She refuses to recognize that it may be morally justifiable to execute people for even the most heinous crimes.

Prejean’s predictions of what the world would be like without capital punishment reveal a tremendous amount of wishful thinking on her part. She believes that, “When people realize that they are safe from criminals and that those who commit capital crimes will be kept out of society for very long periods of time, then I think the tide will turn against the death penalty.” Sure, it’d be great if we could lock somebody up for life, but given what we’ve seen in states facing budget difficulties, where violent offenders have been let out of jail early, I’m less than inclined to trust that these offenders will always stay locked up. A dead man kills no one.

Even if we succeed in keeping our criminals locked up, death row isn’t quite the island it used to be. In May of this year, Wired Magazine ran a story entitled “Prisoners Run Gangs, Plan Escapes, and Even Order Hits With Smuggled Cellphones,” that noted, among other things, that “the maximum-security sector looked like a telemarketing center.” Here’s a stat from that article that’s sure to make you sleep easier at night: “Last year alone, officials confiscated 947 phones in Maryland, some 2,000 handsets and accessories in South Carolina, and 2,800 mobiles in California.” Death row inmates, left alive, will find ways like this to stay connected to the outside world. They will and do kill again if given the chance. If the proof of their telecommunicative efforts to stay connected doesn’t do it for you, there’s also the pesky empirical work that actually shows that the death penalty saves lives. (See a New York Times article from 2007 entitled “Does Death Penalty Save Lives? A New Debate” at Prejean’s position ignores these realities.

However, if Prejean seems slow to condemn evil on the scale of Eichmann or the killers that populate our death rows, she’s very quick to condemn President George W. Bush. On Aug. 3, 2006, Prejean signed a statement in The New York Times that called for President Bush to be ousted on account of his support of “a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism,” torture, a “murderous” war, “a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance,” and attempts to curb abortion. On that final point, Prejean later distanced herself, but she never apologized for the ad, which compared George W. Bush to Hitler. (Note her earlier defense of Eichmann.)

Here’s a question for Sister Prejean, whose anti-abortion status seems always to be an afterthought:

Given your presence at the Democratic National Convention of 2008, does that mean you support the platform of the Democratic Party, which is pro-abortion rights? Babies, after all, never get a say when their lives are terminated in the womb. There’s simply no record of you speaking about your defense of life there. And if you do not support their platform, what does that say about you—that you spend more time defending murderers and rapists than the lives of the unborn?

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