California voters will decide next month whether to outlaw capital punishment in their state. With the latest poll showing death penalty abolitionists behind, they are calling on a potent secret weapon: the priests who speak to the state’s 10.4 million Catholics.
In a statement released Sept. 27, the Catholic bishops of the state called on voters to support Proposition 34, a voter referendum which would end capital punishment in California.
The movement is also getting a little bit of star power from Sister Helen Prejean, the Catholic nun whose depiction in the film “Dead Man Walking” turned her into perhaps the most famous face of Catholic death penalty opposition.
Prejean was in San Diego on Tuesday to begin what she calls a week-long “blitz” across Southern California to rally voters for Proposition 34. She has been meeting with donors and “just working the churches,” she said.
“What we’re hoping for here is not the first state to abolish the death penalty, but definitely the largest,” Prejean said.
The odds of that happening are mixed at best. A Field Poll earlier in the month showed 42 percent of California voters were in favor of repealing the death penalty, with 45 percent were opposed. A more recent Los Angeles Times survey conducted between Sept. 17 and 23 had Proposition 34 down 51 percent to 38 percent.
“No kidding?” Prejean asked. “Well, that just means we work harder.”