Written by Daniel Hazard
Balanced approach to controversial issue
"A Death Penalty Curriculum" - a two-disk set of lesson plans and multi-media components for use in local churches - has been published by the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer, pastor of Niles Congregational UCC in Fremont, Calif.
Spencer began compiling materials for the curriculum while a member of the UCC's Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. Even so, he writes, he has attempted to create a curriculum that is balanced, and that recognizes that people of good will and moral conscience may disagree about the death penalty.
One disk contains lesson plans, permissions, a reader and resources. The lesson plans have instructions for preparing either nine 90-minute sessions or 16-18 50-minute sessions.
The reader includes 16 essays on such topics as why the death penalty is more expensive than life imprisonment, whether the death penalty is a deterrent, the human experience of capital punishment, and the death penalty and restorative justice.
The reader comes in both a regular print and a large print version. By purchasing the curriculum, the leader has permission to copy and bind enough copies for everyone in the class.
Also included are several pages of resources, among them statements on the death penalty from 29 different religious churches and denominations, a death penalty true/false quiz, and charts and graphs about race and the death penalty.
The second disk contains two videos, one by an innocent man who spent 10 years on death row before being exonerated and released, and one by a warden who presided over two executions.
"Jeff has to be commended for pulling all this material together," says the Rev. Sala W.J. Nolan, the UCC's minister for criminal justice and human rights. "It poses good questions in a way that invites Christians in."
"I'm very favorably impressed with this curriculum," says Eugene Wanger of the Michigan Commission Against Capital Punishment. "It is very worthwhile."
Spencer suggests that each class session always begin and end with prayer. It is important, he says, that each class be "grounded in the loving presence of God so that all may truly hear what each person has to say."
Send a check for $51 ($45 plus $6 s/h) to Spencer Curricula, P.O. Box 2611, Fremont, CA 94536. Please include name, address and local church.