Last updated on: 8/27/2021 | Author:

Religious Perspectives on the Death Penalty

Assemblies of God

“God’s attitude toward the killing of innocents is clear. No one is guiltless who takes the life of another, with the possible scriptural exceptions of capital punishment administered by a system of justice (Genesis 9:6; Numbers 35:12), unintended killing in self-defense (Exodus 22:2), or deaths occasioned by duly constituted police and war powers (Romans 13:4,5)…

The Bible does provide precedents for justly administered death sentences for capital crimes as well as for the exercise of self defense and duly constituted police and war powers (Genesis 9:6; Exodus 22:2; Numbers 35:12; Romans 13:4,5). “

Source: Assemblies of God, “Sanctity of Human Life: Abortion and Reproductive Issues,”, Aug. 9-11, 2010


“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.”

Source: Pew Research Center, “Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Capital Punishment,”, Nov. 4, 2009

Catholic Church

“There are two extreme situations that may come to be seen as solutions in especially dramatic circumstances, without realizing that they are false answers that do not resolve the problems they are meant to solve and ultimately do no more than introduce new elements of destruction in the fabric of national and global society. These are war and the death penalty…

Saint John Paul II stated clearly and firmly that the death penalty is inadequate from a moral standpoint and no longer necessary from that of penal justice. There can be no stepping back from this position. Today we state clearly that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible’ and the Church is firmly committed to calling for its abolition worldwide.”

Source: Pope Francis, “Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti of the Holy Father Francis on Fraternity and Social Friendship,”, Oct. 3, 2020

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

“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.”

Source: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, “Capital Punishment,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

Conservative Judaism

“In 1960, the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards approved a paper by Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser that advocated abolition of the death penalty.”

Source: Lewis Warshauer, “The Death Penalty and Conservative Judaism,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

“The Death Penalty stands in the Lutheran tradition recognizing that God entrusts the state with the power to take human life when failure to do so constitutes a clear danger to the common good. Never-the-less, it expresses ELCA opposition to the use of the death penalty, one that grows out of ministry with and to people affected by violent crime.

The statement acknowledges the existence of different points of view within the church and society on this question and the need for continued deliberation, but it objects to the use of the death penalty because it is not used fairly and has failed to make society safer. The practice of using the death penalty in contemporary society undermines any possible alternate moral message since the primary message conveyed by an execution is one of brutality and violence. This social statement was adopted by the 1991 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.”

Source: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, “Death Penalty,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

Episcopal Church

“Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of The Episcopal Church reaffirms the longstanding principle espoused by The Episcopal Church that the Death Penalty in the United States of America should be repealed; and be it further Resolved, That all persons who have been sentenced to Death in the United States of America have their Death Sentences reduced to a lesser Sentence or, if innocent, granted exoneration…

Source: Episcopal Church, “Reaffirm Opposition to the Death Penalty,”, 2018


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

Source: Pew Research Center, “Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Capital Punishment,”, Nov. 4, 2009


“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.”

Source: Pew Research Center, “Religious Groups’ Official Positions on Capital Punishment,”, Nov. 4, 2009

Orthodox Judaism

“The Orthodox Union supports efforts to place a moratorium on executions in the United States and the creation of a commission to review the death penalty procedures within the American judicial system.”

Source: Orthodox Union, “The Orthodox Union’s 108th Anniversary Convention Resolutions,”, Nov. 22-26, 2006

Presbyterian Church USA

“Despite the government’s constantly changing position on the death penalty, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been strong and consistent in its call for a moratorium on capital punishment. We believe that the death penalty challenges the redemptive power of the cross. God’s grace is sufficient for all humans regardless of their sin. As Christians, we must ‘seek the redemption of evildoers and not their death.’

For the past 60 years, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been advocating for an end to the death penalty.”

Source: Presbyterian Church USA Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, “Statement on the Federal Death Penalty,”, Aug. 5, 2019

Reconstructionist Judaism

“Whereas the Jewish scriptural tradition teaches that all human beings are created B’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and upholds the sanctity of all life;

Whereas both in concept and in practice, Jewish leaders throughout over the past 2000 plus years have refused, with rare exception, to punish criminals by depriving them of their lives;

And whereas current evidence and technological advances have shown that as many as three hundred people (disproportionately from minority and poor populations) have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes in America in the last century, which underscores the Jewish concern over capital punishment since all human systems of justice are inherently fallible and imperfect –

Therefore, we resolve that the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association go on record opposing the death penalty under all circumstances, opposing the adoption of death penalty laws, and urging their abolition in states that already have adopted them.”

Source: Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, “Resolution: Death Penalty 2003,”, 2003

Reform Judaism

“The Bible prescribes the death penalty for at least 36 transgressions, from intentional murder to cursing one’s parents, but the practice essentially ended when the rabbinic sages of the Talmud imposed preconditions and evidence requirements so rigorous as to make capital punishment a rarity. Jewish tradition essentially follows the position of Rabbis Tarfon and Akiba: never to impose capital punishment (Mishna Makkot 1:10).

The Reform Movement has formally opposed the death penalty since 1959, when the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) resolved ‘that in the light of modern scientific knowledge and concepts of humanity, the resort to or continuation of capital punishment either by a state or by the national government is no longer morally justifiable.’ The resolution goes on to say that the death penalty ‘lies as a stain upon civilization and our religious conscience.’

In 1979, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the professional arm of the Reform rabbinate, resolved that ‘both in concept and in practice, Jewish tradition found capital punishment repugnant’ and there is no persuasive evidence ‘that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime.'”

Source: Aron Hirt-Manheimer, “Why Reform Judaism Opposes the Death Penalty,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

Southern Baptist Convention

“WHEREAS, The Bible teaches that every human life has sacred value (Genesis 1:27) and forbids the taking of innocent human life (Exodus 20:13); and

WHEREAS, God has vested in the civil magistrate the responsibility of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty (Romans 13:1-3); and

WHEREAS, We recognize that fallen human nature has made impossible a perfect judicial system; and

WHEREAS, God authorized capital punishment for murder after the Noahic Flood, validating its legitimacy in human society (Genesis 9:6); and

WHEREAS, God forbids personal revenge (Romans 12:19) and has established capital punishment as a just and appropriate means by which the civil magistrate may punish those guilty of capital crimes (Romans 13:4); and

WHEREAS, God requires proof of guilt before any punishment is administered (Deuteronomy 19:15-19); and

WHEREAS, God’s instructions require a civil magistrate to judge all people equally under the law, regardless of class or status (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17); and

WHEREAS, All people, including those guilty of capital crimes, are created in the image of God and should be treated with dignity (Genesis 1:27).

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 13-14, 2000, support the fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death”

Source: Southern Baptist Convention, “On Capital Punishment,”, June 1, 2000

Unitarian Universalist Association

“WHEREAS, at this time, even though there has been no execution in the United States for the past seven years, twenty-eight states have already passed legislation seeking to re-establish capital punishment; and

WHEREAS, the act of execution of the death penalty by government sets an example of violence;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1974 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association continues to oppose the death penalty in the United States and Canada, and urges all Unitarian Universalists and their local churches and fellowships to oppose any attempts to restore or continue it in any form.”

Source: Unitarian Universalist Association, “Death Penalty 1974 General Resolution,”, June 1, 1974

United Church of Christ

“The United Church of Christ historically has opposed capital punishment. We first formalized this position in 1969 and we have reaffirmed it many times in the years since. In 2005 our General Synod passed a resolution calling for the common good as a foundational idea in the United States. We simply believe that murder is wrong, whether committed by individuals or the state. Currently our churches are working for abolition of the death penalty.”

Source: United Church of Christ, “Capital Punishment,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

United Methodist Church

“The United Methodist Church says, ‘The death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore, and transform all human beings.’ (Social Principles ¶164.G) As Wesleyans, we believe that God’s grace is ever reaching out to restore our relationship with God and with each other. The death penalty denies the possibility of new life and reconciliation.

The United Methodist Church also recognizes the unjust and flawed implementation of the death penalty, pointing out the example of Texas, where executions reveal racism, bias against mentally handicapped persons and the likely execution of at least one innocent person. (Book of Resolutions, 5037)

‘We oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.’ (Social Principles ¶164.G)”

Source: United Methodist Church, “Death Penalty,” (accessed Aug. 26, 2021)

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