Facts & Research


Leaders and organizations representing a variety of faiths have taken stances on the death penalty, often tying their views to beliefs about human dignity, retribution, and redemption.


Religious denominations in the U.S. have frequently made statements about the death penalty, sometimes pointing out concerns about its application, and other times judging the morality of the punishment itself. Historically, most major religious bodies allowed for the use of capital punishment, but criticism of the practice has greatly increased in recent times.

At Issue

In a diverse democracy, no single religious point of view occupies a privileged position in the framing of law. Nevertheless, the principles of various communities of faith are relevant in the political debate because they help inform the views of their respective constituents and reflect the “evolving standards of decency” that are vital to the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.

What DPIC Offers

DPIC provides a compilation of statements about the death penalty from a broad array of religious denominations. DPIC occasionally highlights the views of those speaking from a faith perspective when the comments relate to a case or controversy involving capital punishment. Finally, it features the results of death penalty polls when broken down by particular faiths.

News & Developments


Apr 26, 2024

Federal Judge Orders Alameda County District Attorney to Review 35 Capital Cases Following Disclosure of Prosecutorial Misconduct in Jury Selection

On April 22, 2024, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price announced that her office was ordered by a fed­er­al judge to review 35 death penal­ty con­vic­tions after the dis­clo­sure of evi­dence that sev­er­al pros­e­cu­tors inten­tion­al­ly exclud­ed Black and Jewish peo­ple from serv­ing on a cap­i­tal mur­der tri­al in 1995. In a press con­fer­ence, DA Price indi­cat­ed that her office dis­cov­ered the hand­writ­ten notes of for­mer pros­e­cu­tors that include dis­crim­i­na­to­ry jury selec­tion tac­tics, suggesting…

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Jan 10, 2024

Catholic Organizers See Renewed Momentum” for Death Penalty Abolition from Pope Francis’ Teachings

In 2018, Pope Francis for­mal­ly revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church — its core teach­ings — to oppose the death penal­ty. Characterizing cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment as an attack on the invi­o­la­bil­i­ty and dig­ni­ty of the per­son,” he wrote that the Catholic Church works with deter­mi­na­tion for its abo­li­tion world­wide.” This revi­sion updat­ed a 1997 Catechism edit by Pope John Paul II that per­mit­ted the death penal­ty in rare cas­es where it was deemed the only pos­si­ble way of effec­tive­ly defend­ing human…

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Oct 17, 2023

Victim’s Sister, Faith Leaders, and Others Plead for Clemency for Will Speer, Faith Based Coordinator on Texas’ Death Row

On Friday, October 13, the sole sur­viv­ing fam­i­ly mem­ber of mur­der vic­tim Gary L. Dickerson joined dozens of faith lead­ers and oth­ers in ask­ing the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles for clemen­cy for Will Speer. Mr. Speer is set to be exe­cut­ed on October 26, 2023. After a child­hood of hor­rif­ic abuse, a life sen­tence by age 18, and a judg­ment of death by age 23, Mr. Speer devot­ed him­self to the study of Christianity and has become a promi­nent prison min­is­ter. In my heart, I feel that he is not…

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Sep 26, 2023

New DPIC Podcast: Evangelical Pastor Rich Nathan Discusses How a Culture of Life” Informs His Opposition to the Death Penalty

In the September 2023 episode of Discussions with DPIC, Anne Holsinger, Managing Director of DPIC, speaks with Pastor Rich Nathan (pic­tured), found­ing pas­tor of Vineyard Columbus, an evan­gel­i­cal Christian church based in Ohio. Mr. Nathan shares how reli­gious teach­ings inform his posi­tion on the death penal­ty. For me, the oppo­si­tion to cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment has just been a nat­ur­al exten­sion of our pro-life posi­tion of build­ing an inclu­sive soci­ety, a soci­ety that wel­comes every­one into the human…

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Sep 25, 2023

The Metropolitan Opera Premieres Dead Man Walking” Based on the Book by Sister Helen Prejean

On September 26, 2023, the New York Metropolitan Opera will pre­miere Dead Man Walking” cre­at­ed by American com­pos­er Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally and fea­tur­ing a new stag­ing by Ivo van Hove. The opera is based on Sister Helen Prejean’s 1993 mem­oir which details her jour­ney as a pen pal and spir­i­tu­al advis­er to a death-sen­tenced pris­on­er at Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. It is the most per­formed con­tem­po­rary opera in the world. I can only think that some­how we told this human drama…

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