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Former editor takes anti-death penalty post

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As editor of the NC Catholic, John Strange devoted a lot of his time to coverage of the death penalty, an issue which the church--and Strange--take a strong position against.

Last month, Strange began his new job as communications director for the Carrboro-based People of Faith Against the Death Penalty. In December, Diocese of Raleigh Catholic Bishop F. Joseph Gossman fired Strange for publishing an article in the NC Catholic that was critical of the church, a decision that surprised many Catholics.

Strange, the father of two young children, said he wanted to stay in the area if he could find work. PFADP Executive Director Stephen Dear said Strange's coverage of the death penalty in the NC Catholic was a major reason he hired Strange to help lead this year's effort in the General Assembly to pass a moratorium on executions.

Strange's position is a new, permanent, full-time position that is being funded from private donors and foundations, Dear said.

"It's something we have wanted to do for a long time," he said. PFADP is also looking to fill the position of field director, a post that has been vacant since last year. In addition, PFADP has hired former Chapel Hill Town Council member, Bill Thorpe as a part-time community organizer to help with the moratorium effort. Two more part-time field organizer are expected to be filled soon, Dear said.

Dear said Strange, who was selected from among a large pool of talented applicants, edited "the religious newspaper in the state that did the best job of covering the death penalty. As an editor, John Strange did a great job of covering the death penalty and informing North Carolina Catholics about what was going on. He also brings a deep personal concern for social justice and a commitment to abolition."

Strange's job responsibilities at PFADP will include editing "Take Action, Not Lives," the group's newsletter, as well as managing PFADP's web site. Strange will also be involved with "networking with religious communities" in the promotion of the moratorium, Dear said. "We want to be able to give them the tools they need to reach out to their congregations and their communities."

Strange said he was excited to be on the PFADP staff.

"In terms of what it means to my career, it's a natural fit and a natural step for me," he said. "I've been a Catholic journalist for nine and a half years in North Carolina. I've covered the issue quite a bit, and I'm very strongly against the death penalty, and it gives me a chance to be more active in something I believe in and something I have covered."

Meanwhile, the NC Catholic has not replaced Strange. The paper, which did not report Strange's firing, has also not published any letters to the editor since Strange left.

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