By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Restoring Justice Oklahoma will hold it’s second annual Pubic Confession for Involvement in the Culture of Death on Tuesday, April 28 at 8 p.m. It will be held at the Jesus Wept statue between St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral and the OKC Bombing Memorial at NW 5th and Harvey in Oklahoma City.
RJO co-organizer, Zachary Gleason, pastor at Joy Mennonite Church will speak. The event is open to people of all faiths or of no religious faith.
The event, sponsored by the Joy Mennonite Church of OKC and supported by the Oklahoma Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, is a public confession apologizing for the culture of violence that reveals itself through capitol punishment.
“A ceremony of confession and repentance will be held for our actions and inaction, individually and as a society. It has contributed to the creation of a mindset that quickly turns to violence and death as a solution to our problems,” said Gleason.
Confession is borrowed from Christianity, but the event itself is not religious.
“Much of our thinking and behavior is built around violence and death,” said Gleason. “Public policies like mass incarceration and capital punishment are taken for granted as a fact of life.
“Change begins by realizing that alternatives to these self-destructive institutions are possible,” Gleason added. “As we confess our contributions to a death-oriented culture, we allow ourselves to imagine healthier, more effective, and ethical practices so that we can begin to make them into reality.”
RJO co-organizer, Dr. Britney Hopkins said, “It is worth noting that the Confession will include a signing of the ‘Declaration of Life,’ a document that states that should you be killed as a result of a violent act, you do not want the death penalty sought. There will be a notary there as a witness.”
This is not mandatory of participants Hopkins noted.
Founded on April 29, 2014, RJO is a grassroots Oklahoma effort to address criminal justice reform through citizen awareness and action.
“Vigils, petitions, and protests are important responses to injustice, but there is more,” said Gleason. “We seek to empower informed decisions and positive action. The Public Confession project gives death penalty opponents a way to confess our common guilt of participation in the system of killing to punish killing, and to remove the possibility that our death will become a motive for revenge by the state.”
RJO held its inaugural Public Confession event in May 2014.
Oklahoma lawmakers voted recently to reinstate the gas chamber as a backup execution method to lethal injection.
The Oklahoma Senate voted 41-0 in favor of HB 1879, which legalizes execution by nitrogen hypoxia. Supporters contend that it is more humane than gases previously used in executions. Nitrogen hypoxia causes death when nitrogen gas pumped into the chamber depletes the oxygen supply in the blood.
The house bill was approved 85 to 10 in March and was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Thursday, April 17.
The nitrogen gas chamber would be employed as a secondary method should lethal injection drugs become unavailable, or if the state’s protocol is deemed unconstitutional when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on its legality later this month.
“We as a culture have to take responsibility for living in a society that cultivates violent behavior that time and time again leads to horrendous atrocities,” Hopkins said. “It’s time to get to the heart of the problem and stop attempting to prevent violence with violence and the first step is acknowledging our participation in a justice system that is simply not working.”
Gleason added. “We choose to publicly voice our desperate need for more thoughtful, responsible, and creative ways of finding healing.”
For more information, call 405-823-4155 or email [email protected]