Q: Why do so many faith communities oppose the death penalty?
- A: Because they are convinced that we must always allow for repentance and redemption.
- A: Because they honor the Biblical mandate not to seek retribution for evil.
- A: Because they are committed to reconciliation and rehabilitation as best expressing what God requires of us.
- A: Because they are committed to justice and reject a penalty that is imposed most often on the poor and the vulnerable.
- A: Because they are convinced that human life, even of someone who has committed a terrible crime, is of infinite worth and cannot be rightfully taken by human decision.
You CAN make a difference!
- Organize a petition drive at your place of worship. Offer other members of your congregation the opportunity to sign a petition to abolish the death penalty.
- Encourage your congregation to adopt a resolution for abolition of the death penalty.
- Let your state senator know how you feel about the death penalty; organize an offering of letters.
- Organize a local faith committee to participate in state-wide abolition efforts.
- Sponsor an ecumenical prayer gathering for National Death Penalty Abolition Day.
- Witness to what you believe through letters to newspapers and other media.
- Ask your church or synagogue to offer a class or study group on the death penalty using your faith community’s resources and statements:
- American Baptist Churches
- U.S. Catholic Bishops
- United Church of Christ
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Disciples of Christ
- The Episcopal Church
- Friends United Meeting
- American Jewish Committee
- Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
- General Conference Mennonite Church
- Orthodox Church in America
- United Methodist Church
- Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
- Unitarian Universalist
We, as American Baptists, condemn the current reinstatement of capitol punishment and oppose its use under any new or old state or federal law, and call for an immediate end to planned executions throughout this country.
We believe that abolition of the death penalty is most consonant with the example of Jesus, who both taught and practiced forgiveness of injustice and who came “to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Be it resolved… that the Conferences be encouraged to assist local churches and individual members of the United Church of Christ to engage in serious ethical reflection and prayer- guided action toward the eradication of legalized execution and the creation of a more just and humane society. We will continue to offer our prayers on behalf of our brothers and sisters on death row and those who enact and enforce the laws which legalize killing.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regards the question of whether and in what circumstances the state should impose capital punishment as a matter to be decided solely by the prescribed processes of civil law. We neither promote nor oppose capital punishment.
The holy scriptures clearly mandate that we are not to kill, we are not to render evil for evil, and that we are not to seek retribution with vengeance for the evil done to us… the use of execution to punish criminal acts does not allow for repentance of the criminal.
The Christian Church expresses its opposition to the use of the death penalty… and calls for the repeal of all laws and statutes to permit its usage.
Whereas,… the life of an individual is of infinite worth in the sight of Almighty God; and the taking of such a human life falls within the providence of Almighty God and not within the right of Man; and….
Whereas, a preponderance of religious bodies continue to oppose capitol punishment as contrary to the concept of Christian love as revealed in the New Testament; and …
Whereas, the institutionalized taking of human life prevents the fulfillment of Christian commitment to seek the redemption and reconciliation of the offender; and…
Whereas, there are incarceration alternatives for those who are too dangerous to be set free in society; therefore be it
Resolved,… The Episcopal Church reaffirms its opposition to capitol punishment…
Friends accept the Biblical teaching that every human life is valuable in the sight of God, that man need not remain in his sinful state but can repent and be saved, that God loves the sinner and takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” but longs “that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
Whereas those who seek to retain the death penalty have failed to establish its deterrent effect or recognize the fallibility of criminal justice institutions; and
Whereas capitol punishment has too often been discriminatory in its application and is increasingly being rejected by civilized peoples throughout the world…
Now therefore be it resolved that the American Jewish Committee be recorded as favoring the abolition of the death penalty.
… following Jesus leads to a commitment to restorative justice. This commitment means addressing the hurt of each person whose life has been touched by violent crime. Restorative justice makes the community safer for all.
Executions focus on the convicted murderer, providing very little for the victim’s family or anyone else whose life has been touched by crime. Capital punishment focuses on retribution, sometimes reflecting a spirit of vengeance…
Since Christ… has given the church a ministry of reconciliation, and in view of the injustice and ineffectiveness of capital punishment as a means for the achievement of the purposes of government, we express our conviction that its use should be discontinued.
WHEREAS Orthodox Christians should be called to go beyond the political, social, and legal issues raised by capital punishment and recognize and address the deeper moral, ethical, and religious questions of the supreme value of human life in a manner consistent with our opposition to abortion and mercy killing, and in all such questions involving life and death the Church must always champion life; and
WHEREAS in an effort to further the respect for all human life and to witness to the redemptive nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who Himself prevented the legal execution of a woman (John 8:3-11) and realizing that premature death resulting from the application of the death penalty can prevent the rehabilitation, reconciliation, and redemption of the offender; and
WHEREAS, while we recognize the necessity to punish those guilty of violent crime, we also recognize that there is no humane way to execute a human being;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America supports the abolition of the death penalty in this and all countries and does urge our elected and appointed officials in those states where prisoners are still executed to introduce and support appropriate legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Council requests all governors of states where the death penalty is still in force to halt all further executions according to the power of their office, but that legislative provisions be made for life imprisonment without possibility of parole for those subject to the death penalty;
FINALLY, BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox church in America supports and encourages religious bodies, organizations and human rights groups which seek the abolition of the death penalty.
The United Methodist Church cannot accept retribution or social vengeance as a reason for taking human life. It violates our deepest belief in God as the creator and the redeemer of humankind. In this respect, there can be no assertion that human life can be taken humanely by the state. Indeed, in the long run, the use of the death penalty by the state will increase the acceptance of revenge in our society and will give official sanction to a climate of violence.
In 1959 the 171st General Assembly, “believing that capital punishment cannot be condoned by an interpretation of the Bible based upon the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ,” called on Christians to “seek the redemption of evil doers and not their death” and noted that “the use of the death penalty tends to brutalize the society that condones it.”
In 1977 the General Assembly called upon its members to:
a. Work to prevent the execution of persons now under sentence of death and further use of the death penalty;
b. Work against attempts to reinstate the death penalty in state and federal law, and where such laws exist, to work for their repeal;
c. Work for the improvement of the justice system to make less radical means available for dealing with persons who are a serious threat to themselves and to the safety and welfare of society.
These positions were affirmed in 1978 and 1985.
Whereas, General Assemblies of the Unitarian Universalist Association have opposed capital punishment by resolutions in 1961, 1966, and 1974; and
Whereas, the aforementioned resolutions have urged complete abolition of capital punishment as inconsistent with respect for human life; for its retributive, discriminatory, and non-deterrent character; and opposed its restoration or continuance in any form; and
Whereas, the State of Florida has declared its intent to proceed with the executions of those under the capital sentence in Florida prisons, numbering more than one hundred, and having begun with the execution of John Spenkelink on May 25, 1979; and
Whereas, the Florida example may become precedent for a new wave of capital punishment in numerous other states;
Be It Resolved: That the 1979 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges the Governor of the State of Florida to commute all existing death sentences; and
Be It Further Resolved: That the General Assembly urges Governors of all other states similarly to commute death sentences and to prevent the restoration or continuance of capital punishment in any form.
Faith Based Websites with Death Penalty Information
- Religion and the Death Penalty- Death Penalty Information Center
- Catholics Against Capitol Punishment
- Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty
- Creighton University Collaborative Ministry
- People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
- Theology Library: The Death Penalty
- Unitarian Universalists Against the Death Penalty