For many abolitionists, opposition to capital punishment is deeply rooted in a spiritual view of the world, our relationship to it, to each other and, for many, to our creator.
Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.
-Matthew 22:21 (Christian Gospel)
While the government has the right and responsibility to separate dangerous people from society and hold them accountable, many believe that government cannot take life as punishment, because the government cannot give life.
It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death.
- Sefer Hamitzvot (Book of the Commandments)
This quote by Moses Maimonides, the great 12th century Jewish rabbi and scholar, expresses a key element found in most religious traditions – that innocent life has immense intrinsic value. It is far too risky to have capital punishment because of the very real likelihood of executing an innocent person. Such a possibility is anathema to people of faith and others of good will.
If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me, I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, I will not commit the same evil act that you threaten to commit, so that I will not earn the same sin as you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the all that exists.
-Qur’an, 5:28 (Islamic Holy Book)
The story of Cain and Abel in the Qur’an includes a dialogue between the two brothers. After Cain threatens to take Abel’s life, the latter refuses to inflict harm in self-defense. Abel did not want to shed blood, thereby destroying a life created by God and defiling the divine creation.
Everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore you do not kill or cause to be killed.
-Dhammapada 10:124 (Teachings of the Buddha)
We are all connected. We oppose the death penalty because you cannot kill the murder without causing a ripple effect of pain that goes beyond the prisoner to his or her family, corrections employees and their families and the community. And the focus on killing the killer detracts focus and resources away from the true work of healing devastated families and our communities.
People of faith must help lead the effort to end capital punishment. Moral force, combined with pragmatic leadership is what it will take to end the death penalty.
Share your personal statement about how your spiritual beliefs are a part of why you oppose the death penalty.
See if the leadership body of your faith community has adopted a resolution against the death penalty.
Ask your faith community to join the 50 for $50k Campaign!