I finally saw “Sound of Freedom.” It’s not exactly a feel-good movie, nor is it designed to be. Instead, as actor Jim Caviezel explains at the end, his hope is that this movie would be this generation’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” That book told a powerful story about the horrors of slavery, mobilizing people to end it.
In the same way, those of us who saw “Sound of Freedom” and were moved by it should not stop with simply seeing the movie, or complaining about “The Guardian” and CNN smearing Caviezel, or Disney’s and Netflix’s failure to stream the movie as originally intended.
Don’t get me wrong – seeing the movie and calling out the moral monsters who oppose it are all good things which need to happen. But the children trapped in sexual slavery need more than that.
So, I have a modest proposal: It’s time for capital punishment for child sex traffickers.
There’s both a moral and constitutional case for why this crime deserves death.
As a Christian, I look to the Bible as the ultimate moral authority. In the Old Testament, there were two crimes punishable by death which relate to today’s trafficking of children. First, kidnapping human beings to sell them was punishable by death (Exodus 21:16). Second, rape was punishable by death (Deuteronomy 22:25). Thus, according to the Law, child traffickers doubly deserve execution.
Why did God prescribe death for rape and kidnapping in the Old Testament? The answer appears to be the same as the penalty for murder: these crimes rob human beings of that which makes them special, namely, the image of God (Genesis 9:6). Murder kills the image of God; kidnapping and selling reduces the image of God to property; and rape reduces the image of God to a sexual object. Because all three crimes destroy the image of God, he who destroys it should be destroyed in return (see Genesis 9:6 again).
“But that’s Old Testament,” one might object. Jesus Himself would counter that it would be better for one who harms a child “to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). So Jesus not only favored the execution of those who destroy children, but He called for their execution in a dramatic way.
Apart from the Scriptures, spend five minutes listening to the story of anyone sexually abused as a child. That deep trauma sticks with them the rest of their lives. The crime must be avenged, and future crime must be deterred. Death is the appropriate penalty.
The remaining issue is whether such a penalty would be legal.
You may know that in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the destruction of God’s image through abortion. It’s no surprise then that a few years later the Court further disrespected the image of God by prohibiting vengeance on those who destroy it, slowly chipping away at the death penalty. In 2008, it even held 5-4 in Kennedy v. Louisiana that it was unconstitutional to execute a person for raping a child.
However, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that the current Supreme Court cares more about history than about which side of the bed Justice Kennedy awoke on a given day. For most of my life, Kennedy’s feelings dictated how the Supreme Court would go, as they did in Kennedy. But the current Court cares more about the Constitution’s text and history than about bad precedents based on liberal justices taking the Constitution on a joyride.
At common law, rape was punishable by death. Thus, presumptively, the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit execution for rape.
Furthermore, when considering whether a penalty violates the Eighth Amendment, the question is whether it is “grossly disproportional” to the offense. In Kennedy, the four conservative dissenters argued persuasively that execution for child rape was not grossly disproportional. Now that we have six conservative justices on the Court, I think there’s a high chance they would agree.
If there were ever a crime deserving the same punishment as murder, it is child sex trafficking. We must avenge the children forced to endure the deepest recesses of hell, and we need to deter would-be traffickers from preying on children. Capital punishment is the way to go.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
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