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In the following pages, I will discuss the history, debate, past and current public opinion, and how it applies to American ideology and opposing values. Both sides have a fair amount of support and I have included direct quotes and paraphrasing from authors, celebrities, journalists, and ordinary people arguing both sides.
The history of the death penalty goes back to the earliest civilizations where it was used to punish all sorts of crimes from robbery, to murder, to different forms of heresy. In the United States it evolved to just punish murder, treason, and some cases of rape. It has been an issue that has sparked a never ending debate that goes back to colonial times. The general public traditionally supported the death penalty in a majority with only a few politicians speaking out against it (i.e., Benjamin Rush, Ben Franklin and later on Horace Greeley). Once the U.S. gained independence, each state went back and forth in abolishing and reinstating the death penalty and methods of execution.
The 1960s saw many trials concerning capital punishment cases that led to a ten year halt in executions. In 1965, the American Civil Liberties Unions (ACLU) announcement of their anti-death penalty stance was a sign of things to come. It was particularly important because the ACLU had always neglected to have an opinion on the issue because they believed it was not a civil rights issue. They now determined that capital punishment was inconsistent with underlying values of a democratic system. They explained that it discriminated against blacks and other minorities and did not comply with the eighth amendment of the constitution, in other words, it was cruel and unusual punishment (Vila, Morris:127). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples Legal Defense Fund (NAACP-LDF) also began to speak out in the mid-sixties. They agreed that the death penalty discriminated against blacks and launched a campaign against the death penalty around the same time. The LDF poured its resources into aiding death row prisoners which tied up the capital punishment cases for years allowing them to achieve their goal of a moratorium on the death penalty (Vila, Morris:131). From 1967 to 1977, there were no executions anywhere in the United States because of groups like these that rallied to oppose it, the particularly low public support of it, and a number of supreme court cases that decided in the favor of the abolitionist movement.
One crucial case was Witherspoon v. Illinois in 1968. The supreme court ruled that prospective jurors who oppose the death penalty can not automatically be excluded from juries in possible capital punishment cases. The court said that having jurors that oppose the death penalty is part of a fair, impartial jury as dictated by the Sixth Amendment. Some dissenters claimed that people who were ethically opposed to the death penalty were biased because they would never vote to give the death penalty to people who deserved it. Some historians say that this marked the first time that the supreme court was persuaded by public opinion against capital punishment. The following statement was made by Justice Potter Stewart who spoke for the majority, In a nation less than half of whose people believe in the death penalty, a jury composed exclusively of such people cannot speak for the communityIn its quest for a jury capable of imposing the death penalty, the State produced a jury uncommonly willing to condemn a man to die (Gottfried:60). Scholars and lawyers also thought this would be the end of capital punishment for good because the courts willingness to accept people who fundamentally opposed the death penalty, but this turned out not to be true because of details in the decision that allowed courts and legislatures to work around it.
The 1972 case of Furman v Georgia was seen as a complete victory for abolitionists at the time, but proved to be more complicated than it appeared. It said that the death penalty, as it was administered, violated the Eighth Amendments because it was cruel and unusual punishment and violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it did not guarantee equal protection under the law (Costanzo:18). The crucial part of this statement was ..as it was ... more
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3 Non Traditional Religions Voodoo, Spiritualism, Cults
Religion is primary agent of social control in our society. Due to its communally held beliefs and principles, we have a foundation on which we can rest the laws, values, and the main doctrine, of almost any society. Here in America, we have tremendous freedom in both establishing and in choosing the religion of our choice. This freedom has given birth to many non-traditional religions and practices. When discussing the topic of social control and order within a society, these non-traditional religions can be used very strongly to bring about social change within an individual then into the population. On the rise in our nation, is the emergence of voodoo practices, the belief in spiritualism, and many groups of cults. Each one of these religions has the extreme ability to influence the individual in many psychological and physical ways, drastically changing a persons behavioral patterns. While inducing these changes upon the individual, many people can and usually will, succumb explicit exploitation of themselves as well as their economic resources.
Voodoo, whose name derived from the African word for spirit (Origins of Voodoo), came to us through the European colonization of the West Indies. African tribes were forcibly shipped overseas, primarily to Haiti and other Caribbean lands, to be used as agricultural slaves. Upon the arrival in their new country, the slaves were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. In fear of revolt, the colonists separated the many tribes of slaves and had them dispersed all across the new land. This result was a mixture of African slaves, forced to live together, naturally adapting to each others lifestyles, habits, and beliefs systems. The slaves were forced to attend a Catholic Mass on a regular basis, however, many of the assimilated tribes continued to practice their native religion. When the colonists found this out, the persecution of many African slaves took place. They were violently beaten and killed for worshiping their own gods, and not the one of the Catholic religion. It was through this persecution that the tribes did not separate; rather, they came together and formed together with the common bond of their religion. The religious beliefs and the rituals from many of the tribes began it integrate, ultimately creating a new religion: Voodoo.
Voodoo is based on the manifestation of the spirit world through the channel of the human being. This is achieved through the acts of rituals in highly structured Voodoo ceremonies, which are preformed by a Voodoo Priest. A male priest is referred to as a Houngan, and a female is referred to as a Mambo.
There are two types of Voodoo or magic, used in Voodoo, White Magic, and Black Magic. White Magic involves the usage of candles, oils, plants, and potions, to obtain certain things in life. For example, one might attend or perform a White Magic ceremony to obtain power, love, or money. This ritual or ceremony is used in a positive manner only, it causes no harm, nor does it pose any threat upon the individual or on others. Black Magic or Red Voodoo, on the other hand, involves evil and harmful acts. Black magic is preformed by a Bokor, which is one who uses evil acts of sorcery, involving death and zombie curses. A zombie curse involves a ritual where the Bokor poisons his human subject, resulting in death. After three days, the dead is revived and becomes the Bokors eternal slave (Haitian Voodoo Culture).
The followers of the Voodoo religion believe in one Supreme Being, named Bondye. Under Bondye, there are hundreds of minor gods and Loas. A Loas refers to the spirit of someone who has led an exceptional life. The Loas exercise control over nature, health, wealth, happiness, and all prosperity of mortals. The human followers and the Laos exercise a dependency-based relationship with one another. The Loas provide prosperity, and the humans provide food, and other material objects to the Laos as an offering. The altars that are each dedicated to one specific Loa are encompassed with candles, pictures of the Loa, and anything else referring to the Loa. A prime example of a Loa is one named Zaka. Zaka is the god or spirit ... more
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