Communities of Faith
In south Carolina, there are a number of religious and spiritual communities who oppose the death penalty as part of their commitment to personal and social holiness. Not everyone knows their tradition's stance on capital punishment, so we thought we would use this page to centralize resources for people to lead their congregations in deeper reflection.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
Romans 12:17-20a NRSVA
Faith Communities Against Capital Punishment
Find your tradition below. If you don't see yourself represented here, reach out and let us know.
The Catholic Church
Catholic teaching holds that life is a gift from God that is not for us to take away. Pope Francis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vatican Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and statements of U.S. Bishops all reject the use of the death penalty.
In 2015, the National Association of Evangelicals released the following statement, "Because of the fallibility of human systems, documented wrongful convictions, and our desire that God’s grace, Christian hope, and life in Christ be advanced, a growing number of evangelicals now call for government entities to shift their resources away from pursuing the death penalty and to opt for life in prison without parole as the ultimate sanction."
The United Methodist Church
The Social Principles of the UMC say that the death penalty, "denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore, and transform all human beings." The UMC urges the elimination of the death penalty from all criminal codes.
The United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society
The Presbyterian Church (USA)
In its "Social Creed for the 21st Century," the PCUSA calls all Christians to work for, "A system of criminal rehabilitation, based on restorative justice and an end to the death penalty.”
The Central Conference of American Rabbis
Since 1958, the CCRA has opposed all forms of capital punishment resolving that, "Both in concept and in practice, Jewish tradition found capital punishment repugnant despite Biblical sanctions for it...No evidence has been marshaled to indicate with any persuasiveness that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime."
The Episcopal Church
In a 2019 statement, the Episcopal Church's office of Government Relations wrote, "The death penalty is not theologically justifiable, in part because it is not necessary for the protection of innocent people and the state cannot morally justify killing for the sake of vengeance. In the Old Testament, animal and human sacrifice was used to reestablish the moral balance that sin destroyed by making an offering of those animals and people to God. Christ’s death atoned for all human sin, past, present, and future, thus reestablishing moral balance for all time.
The premeditated and unnecessary killing of a person is unchristian and beyond the legitimate powers of the state."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
In their social statement on the death penalty, the ELCA says, "It is because of this church’s ministry with and to people affected by violent crime that we oppose the death penalty. Executions focus on the convicted murderer, providing very little for the victim’s family or anyone else whose life has been touched by the crime. Capital punishment focuses on retribution, sometimes reflecting a spirit of vengeance. Executions do not restore broken society and can actually work counter to restoration."
Check out the SC Synod's Video Playlist and Resource Page on a Faithful Response to the Death Penalty!
The United Church of Christ
The UCC 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."
The Unitarian Universalist Church
The general assemblies of the Unitarian Universalist Church have resolved to oppose the death penalty consistently since 1961, and they continue to do so.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
In a 2003 resolution, the Christian Church stated that it,”… believes the death penalty to be contrary to God’s passion for justice. Criminal action is a reflection of human brokenness and sin. Many of our responses to criminal action continue the cycle of brokenness and sin in our society. God created life and thus, it is holy. The intentional taking of life denies God’s intent for humanity. We believe this to be the case with the death penalty."
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Orthodox Christianity opposes the death penalty. In a 2020 interview with Vatican News, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople described opposition to the death penalty as, "a logical and moral consequence," of adhering to Christian principles.
Buddhist Traditions in the United States
Leading Buddhist voices, including the Dalai Lama, routinely oppose the death penalty, advocating for compassion for all.