In March 2000, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned the death sentence in a murder case because an assistant district attorney urged jurors to follow certain biblical mandates related to the death penalty. “During closing arguments in the penalty phase of the trial, D. Brandon Hornsby, the assistant district attorney, cited passages from the books of Romans, Genesis, and Matthew, telling jurors ‘all they who take the sword shall die by the sword.’ Hornsby argued that the Bible says society must deter criminals by taking the lives of people who kill other people, the justices noted in their ruling."[1]

In explaining the ruling, Justice Norman S. Fletcher wrote that such references “inject the often irrelevant and inflammatory issue of religion into the sentencing process and improperly appeal to the religious beliefs of jurors in their decision on whether a person should live or die."[2] He’s begging the question by describing such references as “irrelevant” and “inflammatory.” A death penalty opponent would certainly see them that way, but since there is no prohibition against the death penalty in constitutional terms, how is referencing the Bible irrelevant? Inflammatory? What does this mean? Here’s a judge pulling law out of thin air.

This issue has come up again. On March 28, 2005, the Colorado Supreme Court, in a 3–2 decision, issued a similar ruling and “threw out the death penalty in a rape-and-murder case because jurors had studied Bible verses such as ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ during deliberations."[3] These jurors had the audacity to look up Bible verses, copy them down, and talk about them while they were deliberating the penalty phase of the trial. So instead of the death penalty, the convicted murderer-rapist got life without parole. At least two of the justices had some sense. That’s progress.

Let’s follow the logic of these two rulings. Both men were convicted of murder. The Bible says that murder is wrong and should be punished. What if the jurors were using their understanding of the Bible when they came to the decision that these men were guilty of murder based on their beliefs about the Bible? Would the murderers have been set free?

Why are murder and rape wrong? What standard are these courts and judges using to make legal determinations? If it’s not the Bible, then it must be natural law. But it can’t be. The courts gave up on natural law a long time ago. The Supreme Court is turning to international law, but only in a selective way. There are many nations that do not permit abortion and have not legalized homosexuality. Why no consideration of these nations and their views of law? Even so, international law only pushes the question back a step. Why is something right or wrong for the international courts?

One of the defendants was convicted on a rape charge. Now we learn that “rape is a ‘natural, biological’ phenomenon, springing from men’s evolutionary urge to reproduce.” Natural selection favored certain things, including rape, as “strategies” for passing on genes. These are the opinions of anthropologist Craig Palmer of the University of Colorado and biologist Randy Thornhill of the University of New Mexico. This is not to say, the authors insist, “that something is good even if it’s natural. . . . Plainly, rapists are responsible for rape and should be punished.” Why? We don’t punish animals in the wild when they “rape.” Aren’t we just highly evolved animals? There is no such thing as “rape” if you are an evolutionist, so why is it wrong for homo sapiens? In biblical terms, rape is a crime deserving the death penalty.[4] Why is murder wrong? If we’re going to toss the Bible when it comes to the death penalty for murder, it won’t be too long before we toss it out when considering whether murder is a crime. Silly me . . . We’ve already done that. We allow women to murder their pre-born babies, and courts order disabled women to be starved to death.

Endnotes:

[1] Jingle Davis, “Death ruling quashed for Bible quotes,” Atlanta Constitution (March 7, 2000), B1. [2] Davis, “Death ruling quashed for Bible quotes,” B1. [3] “Bible flap spares killer,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 29, 2005), A4. [4] Dan Vergano, “‘Natural, biological’ theory of rape creates instant storm,” USA Today (January 18, 2000), 8D.