As the 1,000th execution approaches, over 1,000 religious leaders from more than a dozen religious faiths have issued an open letter calling for an end to capital punishment in the United States. The letter reaffirms the leaders’ moral opposition to the death penalty and reiterates the groups’ belief in the sacredness of life and the human capacity for change. The faith leaders called on public officials to reexamine capital punishment and to seek better ways to help communities heal from violence. The letter states:

We join with many Americans in questioning the need for the death penalty in our modern society and in challenging the effectiveness of this punishment, which has consistently been shown to be ineffective, unfair, and inaccurate. The death penalty not only applies disproportionately to the poor and to people of color, but also continues to make fatal mistakes, with 122 people now freed from death rows across the country due to evidence of wrongful conviction. As the number of executions increases, the likelihood that we have, or that we will, execute an innocent person becomes a near certainty.

The United States continues to be one of the top executing nations in the world and is out of step with the majority of its global allies on this issue. We would be a better society by joining the many nations that have already abolished the death penalty.

The views of the letter’s signatories are shared by faith groups around the nation. For example, hundreds of churches nationwide are planning to mark the 1,000th execution by holding vigils and tolling bells in memory of all murder victims, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently approved new, stronger language aimed at ending the death penalty in the U.S. The 1,000th execution is currently scheduled to take place on December 2, 2005. (United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society Press Release, “1,000 Religious Leaders Renew Call for Death Penalty Abolition As 1,000th Execution Approaches,” November 28, 2005) Read the letter and the press release. See New Voices and Executions.