Robert Harlan raped and murdered Rhonda Maloney, a waitress, in 1994. In 2005, his death sentence was thrown out by the Colorado Supreme Court because jurors had used Bible passages to help determine their sentence.
The Court, in doing so, has:
1. Denied the jury the right to use primary documents relative to the historical development of law to inform their decision.
2. Violated jurors' First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion by denying the use of Scripture to inform their decision.
3. Denied the jury's right to make a free decision in good conscience, without undue external interference.
"It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here" (Patrick Henry, 1765).
"We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions . . . upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God" (James Madison, 1778).
"In contemplating the political institutions of the U.S., if we were to remove the Bible from schools, I lament that we would be wasting so much time and money punishing crimes and would be taking so little pains to prevent them" (Benjamin Rush, Educational Policy Papers, 1791).
"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws . . . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible" (Noah Webster, "History of the United States," 1832).
"Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian" (U.S. Supreme Court, 1892).
[Reference: "Bible Use Voids Death Sentence," from unnamed wire reports, in Houston Chronicle, March 30, 2005, p. A4.]
©2005 Paul A. Hughes