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By Michael Peddecord, Member, California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty

October 3, 2016 (San Diego) -- Discernment is the ability to judge well. In Judaic and Christian traditions, it can be understood as seeking spiritual direction and understanding prior to making a decision. Discernment can also be regarded as a spiritual gift allowing us to judge or appraise a person, statement, situation or proposal.  To achieve this gift, one can be aided by reading scripture and informed texts, prayer, contemplation and discussion of the issue.  Trusted spiritual advisors and religious leaders are also useful in discernment.

The November ballot is historical in its number and complexity of state initiatives.  Already, several well-funded groups have begun to saturate the airwaves and mail boxes with their conflicting messages. How should mindful citizens vote?

Propositions 62 and 66 address the death penalty and both agree that the death penalty system is broken.  They also present strikingly different futures for the punishment of murder in California. 

Proposition 62 would end death penalty prosecutions, making life in prison without parole (LWOP) the ultimate punishment for capital murder. It would convert current death row inmates to LWOP thus ending mandated tax funded death sentence appeals with a savings of at least $150 million per year.  Convicted inmates would be required to work to fund victim restitution. 

Proposition 66 promotes changes to the appeals process in order to speed execution of the 743 inmates currently under death sentence.  Some of the proposed changes would shift costs from the state to counties, allow unspecialized lawyers to handle appeals and increase taxes to fund appeal lawyers by $10s of millions per year.  Web searches for “California Death Penalty 2016” will lead to third party websites such as,_Repeal_of_the_Death_Penalty_(2016) as well as campaign websites.

Where do people of faith stand?  For decades, most religious communities have studied, prayed, grappled with, discerned and published their beliefs and doctrines on the death penalty.   The vast majority of faith groups have taken a position AGAINST the death penalty.  As may be seen on the Yes on 62 website, many religious communities and leaders endorse Prop62 and Oppose 66. 

We, members of the California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty (, urge voters to review the propositions and begin discernment.  We believe that after that process and prayer, mindful Californians will vote YES on Proposition 62 and NO on Proposition 66. 

The views in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact