November 4, 2009

Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Capital Punishment

American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.

Since 1982, the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. has opposed capital punishment in the United States.

In this research package

An Impassioned Debate
An overview of the death penalty in America.

The Death Penalty and the Supreme Court
An analysis of the arguments before the Supreme Court in Baze v. Rees.

Public Opinion on the Death Penalty
Americans continue to support the death penalty.

Religious Groups’ Official Positions on the Death Penalty
A breakdown of 16 major religious groups’ views on the death penalty.

Death Penalty Timeline
A timeline of important court cases and legal milestones since 1972.

Buddhism

There is no common position among Buddhists on capital punishment, but many emphasize nonviolence and appreciation for life. As a result, in countries with large Buddhist populations, such as Thailand, capital punishment is rare.

Catholicism

Although the Catechism of the Catholic Church sanctions the use of the death penalty as a last recourse, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has repeatedly called for the abolition of capital punishment in the United States in all circumstances.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on the issue and considers the death penalty to be a matter of the state and civil law.

Episcopal Church

Since the 1958 General Convention, U.S. Episcopal bishops have maintained a position against the death penalty.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Although the Churchwide Assembly added the death penalty to the church’s social agenda in 1989, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has yet to establish an official stance on the issue.

Hinduism

There is no official position on capital punishment among Hindus, and Hindu theologians fall on both sides of the issue.

Islam

In the United States, where Islamic law – Shariah – is not legally enforced, there is no official Muslim position on the issue of the death penalty. In Islamic countries, however, capital punishment is sanctioned in only two instances: cases involving intentional murder or physical harm of another; and intentional harm or threat against the state, including the spread of terror.

Judaism

All of the major Jewish movements in the United States either advocate for the abolition of the death penalty or have called for at least a temporary moratorium on its use. The Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements in the United States oppose the death penalty in all instances. In 2001, Orthodox Jewish leaders called for a moratorium in light of perceived problems in the nation’s criminal justice system, and urged the creation of a commission to review death penalty procedures.

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

In 1976, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod asserted “that capital punishment is in accord with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.”

National Association of Evangelicals

Since its 1972 and 1973 resolutions on the issue, the National Association of Evangelicals has continued to support the use of capital punishment in cases involving premeditated murder as well as crimes such as hijacking and kidnapping where people are physically harmed.

National Council of Churches

The National Council of Churches, which represents 35 mainstream Protestant and Orthodox churches, has advocated for the abolition of the death penalty since 1968.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)

Since its first official statement on the issue in 1959, reaffirmed again in 1977 and 1978, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has opposed the death penalty.

Southern Baptist Convention

In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution in support of the fair and equitable use of capital punishment.

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has called for a moratorium on executions since 1961.

United Methodist Church

In 1956, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church passed legislation officially declaring the church’s opposition to the death penalty. In 1980 and 2000, the church passed resolutions reaffirming its opposition and encouraging its membership to advocate for the abolition of capital punishment.