People of Faith Speak Out
The movement to abolish the death penalty needs the religious community because the heart of religion is about compassion, human rights, and the indivisible dignity of each human person made in the image of God.
— Sister Helen Prejean
Many supporters of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty are people of faith. Several of them have shared their personal beliefs about why they oppose the death penalty. We are building a community of people of faith speaking out against the death penalty. Please share your statement of faith against capital punishment and encourage others to do so as well.
Will you share your statement of faith?
Hugh Byrne, Ph.D.
Senior teacher with the Insight Meditation Community of Washington and a co-founder of
the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship and the Mindfulness Training Institute.
District of Columbia
I oppose the death penalty because I believe all life is sacred. When we kill or do harm to another, we do not only harm them but also harm ourselves. In killing — whether it is done by an individual or by the state — we shut ourselves off from our essential connection with others and with the world, and we suffer.
The Buddha taught 2,500 years ago that hatred never ends through hatred. Only through love is hatred brought to an end. A society has the right to protect itself and its members from the harm that individuals may cause — including humane systems of incarceration of those who are a danger to others.
Executive Director of South Dakotans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
I have studied and worked at Social Justice issues for the past 30 years, especially Catholic Social Justice writings and actions. I believe with everything in me that this is a God of Life. The question is, what do I do with this belief. In prayer one day I asked Jesus how to follow him on this issue [of the death penalty]. The scripture reading I got was Luke 19:10: "I came for the lost." How can I do any less?
Executive Director of the Catholic Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty
District of Columbia
My Catholic faith believes in the right to life for all and the God-given dignity of every person. When I read the Gospels, I see Jesus' life based on forgiveness. He was a reconciler and a healer. My faith calls me to work for restorative justice, ending the use of violence to solve problems and to promote the dignity of all life.
Rev. Sala Nolan Gonzales
Minister for Criminal Justice and Human Rights
United Church of Christ/Justice and Witness Ministries
I oppose the death penalty because I just believe it is wrong-headed. I believe that God intends us to use this life to learn, to love, to grow. We do that by offering one another constant opportunities for redemption, just as God has shown us by example. We are all brothers and sisters to one another, and no matter what we have done, we are all God’s children, fearfully and wonderfully made.
Rabbi Floyd Herman
The sanctity of life is one of Judaism’s most cherished values. For more than 50 years liberal Judaism has opposed the death penalty. The Baltimore Board of Rabbis, in supporting the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland, wrote, “The sanctity of life, already violated by a murder, is not enhanced by the death penalty.” State executions, meted out unequally with the possibility of mistakes do not measure up to the values by which our society strives to live.
Joseph B. Ingle
United Church of Christ minister
Jesus of Nazareth taught: "When I was in prison you visited me." The people responded: "When did we visit you in prison?" The Nazarene responded: "What you have done to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you have done unto me." In visiting death row prisoners, I have learned what Jesus meant. In visiting prisoners, the visitor is often ministered unto. The visitor doesn't go to the prisoner to do a good deed, but to encounter a child of God.
The Rev. Canon W. (Will) H. Mebane, Jr.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Chair, Ohioans to Stop Executions
I have not always been opposed to the death penalty! However, as my faith matured, I became aware of the inconsistency between “loving my neighbor as myself” or “loving my enemies” and a sentence of capital punishment against those very neighbors and enemies. The ministry of Jesus was and remains about healing. He never condemned anyone to death. Why should we?
Director, Civil and Human Rights
General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church
District of Columbia
I am opposed to the death penalty primarily because I am a Christian and therefore, I must uphold the sacredness of all of life. The death penalty is inherently racist, classist, is not a deterrent, and costs way too much to maintain. All of that is true. But even if it wasn't, faithfulness to Scripture commands that I uphold the sacredness of all of God's life and that means I oppose the death penalty.
Sr. Helen Prejean
Tennesseans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty
At my core, I oppose the death penalty because of my Christian faith. Yes, the death penalty as a policy is a failure: unfair, costly, inaccurate, and damaging to those with direct involvement in it. All of these factors are part of my opposition, but my primary opposition spring from my Christian faith, a faith which instructs me that violence does not solve our problems and that we, who follow Jesus, are called to another way of living. "You who is without sin cast the first stone." These words of Jesus to a crowd prepared to execute a woman caught in a criminal act are a reminder that the death penalty says more about us and how we choose to respond to violent crime than about those who actually commit the crime. Jesus does not condemn this guilty woman to death. Who am I to do so?
Sacred Texts and Capital Punishment
The sacred texts of various faith traditions include stories, teachings, and guiding principles on minimizing inflicting harm and violence unto one another.
Institutional Faith Statements Against the Death Penalty
The leadership bodies of many major faith traditions have adopted resolutions opposing capital punishment. See if yours has such a statement by clicking on this link.
Ask Your Faith Community to Join the 50 for $50K Campaign!
The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is seeking communities of faith across the country to collectively pledge a total of $50,000 each year until capital punishment is abolished in the United States. This stable base of support will enable the National Coalition to provide the necessary leadership to abolish the death penalty state-by-state across our nation.
As a person of faith, you can help the National Coalition to reach this goal of $50,000 of recurring pledges of support by faith communities. As the member of a congregation, will you approach the leaders of your faith community and ask them to join this “50 for $50K” campaign?
Some congregations may pledge only $100 or $250 each year. Other, larger faith communities may pledge $2,000 or more to the National Coalition annually. Urge your faith community to make an investment in the future with a pledge to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty!
Click below for more information on how your congregation can join our Campaign: