Death penalty protesters

Death penalty protesters gather near St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church on Sunday morning.

Ten days before the State of Nebraska is set to hold an execution — its first in 21 years — protesters took their message to the Omaha church where Gov. Pete Ricketts worships.

About 40 people gathered Sunday morning outside St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. With its 6116 Dodge St. address, the midtown church also offered protesters high visibility.

Protesters waved signs that said “No Executions” and “Who Would Jesus Kill?” and questioned the governor’s Catholic faith. One waved a picture of Pope Francis above the words “I SAID NO!” in reference to the Vatican’s recent announcement that the death penalty is now completely unacceptable.

Nebraska’s three bishops have called for a halt of the Aug. 14 execution and urged people to contact state officials.

Ricketts has been a forceful advocate for the death penalty, putting $300,000 of his family fortune toward the ballot effort that restored the death penalty after lawmakers voted to end it. Ricketts said last week that while he respects the pope’s perspective, capital punishment reflects the will of the people and state law and is “an important tool.”

It’s not clear whether Ricketts attended either Sunday morning Mass, and his office couldn’t be reached for comment. Another prominent Republican, Hal Daub, went to the 10:30 Mass. Protesters afterward jeered from across Dodge Street at Daub, who serves on the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

Daub declined to comment, saying the death penalty “has nothing to do with what I’m doing in my life.”

Carla DeVelder, the protester with the Pope Francis sign, said she didn’t care if the governor was there or not Sunday. She wanted to challenge other St. Margaret Mary parishioners.

The Rev. Gregory Baxter of St. Margaret Mary said he was disappointed in some of the demonstrators.

“I was saddened by the uncivil taunts and jeers of some of the protesters toward parishioners after Sunday Mass,” he said.

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