June 17, 2007
The Daily Pilot

Many academics in recent years have been arguing that their studies prove the death penalty deters murder. The various studies show that between 3 and 18 lives could be saved by executing a convicted killer. Critics question the data, saying that the experts made mistakes in their methodology. What do you think of this recent data? Has it affected your position on the issue?

Judaism has always believed in capital punishment based upon Biblical Law.

A man must stand trial according to due process of law. You shall not murder is the sixth of the Ten Commandments. It is followed by another of God’s Decrees that “if you shed the blood of your brother, then your blood shall be shed in its place.”

It should be noted that “one should not bear false witness against his neighbor.” Therefore, capital punishment is enforced based upon a witness, evidence and a unanimous judge decree.

Recent public opinion of the 21st century has not changed my view of opinion on the matter of capital punishment. It should be carried out in cases of premeditated murder.


Statisticians cite research on capital punishment as examples of people deciding what point they want to make before collecting data in ways that will prove their point. Not only are there conflicting studies as to whether or not the death penalty deters murder, there is also data on different sides as to whether or not capital punishment is applied justly to minorities, the poor and those who cannot afford adequate legal representation.

I appreciate the conclusion of the American Bar Assn. that administration of the death penalty is “a haphazard maze of unfair practices with no internal consistency;” the ABA has called for a moratorium on executions.

Jesus called for redemptive and reconciling love of neighbor, even of one’s enemies; retribution and vengeance have no place for his beloveds. Personally, I don’t understand how those of us who worship a God who in human life suffered capital punishment can support the death penalty; I think that life imprisonment without any possibility of parole should be a sufficient “deterrent.” The Episcopal Church has consistently opposed capital punishment.

The American Jewish Committee covers the most bases best for me in its statement of May 6, 1972: “Whereas capital punishment degrades and brutalizes the society which practices it; and whereas those who seek to retain the death penalty have failed to establish its deterrent effect or to recognize the fallibility of criminal justice institutions; and whereas capital punishment has too often been discriminatory in its application and is increasingly being rejected by civilized peoples throughout the world; and whereas we agree that the death penalty is cruel, unjust and incompatible with the dignity and self respect of man; now therefore be it resolved that the American Jewish Committee be recorded as favoring the abolition of the death penalty.”

I, too, continue to favor abolition of the death penalty.


I stand firmly in the anti-death penalty camp. The statistics that show that capital punishment can significantly reduce murder is certainly appealing. After all, who doesn’t want to reduce the number of homicides? While the concept of violent retribution may have worked in an ancient society, my Christian faith challenges me to respond differently. The God that punishes acts of murder by murdering is not the God I believe in. I believe that Jesus calls us to take responsibility for our actions, petitioning us to make the wrongs right, begging us to work for a world where oppression, hatred and acts of cruelty and murder do not reign. However, he says very clearly that we should not attempt to right a wrong with another wrong.

One of my parishioners said it plainly: “We cannot become that which we abhor.”

I’m not convinced of the accuracy of the statistics, but even if it were correct that the death penalty is an effective deterrent, it still does not sway my belief that capital punishment is inhumane. I believe that whether we like it or not, when we condone the death penalty, corporately we all become the murderers we so long to eradicate from our society.