DENVER, Colorado – Colorado bishops have released a statement of solidarity with a Mennonite investigator who has been imprisoned for failing to testify in a death penalty case due to her religious beliefs.
“Religious freedom ensures that all people have the freedom to believe and act according to their faith; it is a fundamental right and constitutionally protected in the United States. This right encompasses the ability to practice one’s faith openly, without undue interference from the government or others,” read a Feb. 28 statement from the Colorado Catholic Bishops.
“Ms. Lindecrantz should not be punished for her religious beliefs and convictions regarding the death penalty and the taking of human life,” they continued.
Greta Lindecrantz, a Mennonite, was a prominent investigator in the defense counsel for a man named Robert Ray during the 2000s. Ray was ultimately convicted as an accessory to murder in the death of Gregory Vann, and additionally for ordering the murders of two witnesses. He was later sentenced to death row.
Years later, a death-sentence appeal case for Ray was opened, prompting prosecutors to question Lindecrantz and her participation in Ray’s case. Lindecrantz has refused to testify on grounds of her religious objections to the death penalty, which caused Judge Michelle Amico to hold her in contempt.
Lindecrantz has been imprisoned since Monday and could face upwards of 6 months in jail, without bail.
“I feel like I was handed a gun and I was told to point it at Mr. Ray, and the gun might or might not have bullets in it, but I’d have to fire it anyway. I can’t shoot the gun. I can’t shoot the gun,” Lindecrantz told the judge during court proceedings, according to the Washington Post.
Mennonites are conscientious objectors to all forms of violence, including the death penalty. During legal proceedings this week, the local Denver Mennonite communities filled the courtroom in solidarity with Lindecrantz.
“For the court to imprison her until she is broken, until her will is broken, and she abandons her faith and her view that she cannot participate in state-sanctioned killing is an abomination,” said Mari Newman, Lindecrantz’s attorney during a news conference.
Colorado bishops urged the court to respect Lindecrantz’ religious objections, stressing that she should not be forced into participating in a proceeding that is contrary to her beliefs.
“As a country and a state, we have long recognized the social value of genuinely accommodating deeply held religious convictions and this should hold true in the case of Greta Lindecrantz,” the bishops said.
“It is our hope that Ms. Lindecrantz’s right to religious freedom will be respected and upheld and that she will not continue to be coerced into behaving in ways that are contrary to her faith or into accepting an ideology that is at odds with her beliefs.”