Religion and the Death Penalty

Introduction

Official Religious Statements on the Death Penalty

Articles and Opinions Concerning the Death Penalty from a Religious Point of View

News and Developments
- Current Year

News and Developments - Previous Years

2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006-1998

Opinion Polls: Death Penalty and Religion

Related Links


Introduction


In recent years, a growing number of religious organizations have participated in the nation's death penalty debate. The purpose of this Web page is to provide access to information regarding the efforts of these faith groups and to highlight recent developments related to religion and the death penalty. The Death Penalty Information Center seeks to provide an overview of this topic and does not endorse any religious viewpoint on this issue.


Official Religious Statements on the Death Penalty




Note: The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations does not describe itself as a part of the Christian faith, but its roots are in Christianity, therefore, it is included under the heading of Christianity.

Articles and Opinions on the Death Penalty from a Religious Point of View







Opinion Polls: Death Penalty Support and Religion


 

Gallup Poll: Who Supports the Death Penalty? The combined aggregate results from the nine surveys conducted from 2001 through 2004 show some interesting, albeit subtle, differences in death penalty support by religious affiliation.

Church Attendance

Americans who attend religious services on a regular basis are slightly less likely to support the death penalty than those who attend less frequently. Although a majority of frequent and infrequent churchgoers support the death penalty, the data show that 65% of those who attend services weekly or nearly weekly favor capital punishment, compared with 69% of those who attend services monthly and 71% of those who seldom or never attend.

 

Religious Preference

Individuals who self-identify as Protestants are somewhat more likely to endorse capital punishment than are Catholics and far more likely than those with no religious preference. More than 7 in 10 Protestants (71%) support the death penalty, while 66% of Catholics support it. Fifty-seven percent of those with no religious preference favor the death penalty for murder.

*Results are based on telephone interviews with 6,498 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 19-21, 2001; May 10-14, 2001; Oct. 11-14, 2001; May 6-9, 2002; Oct. 14-17, 2002; May 5-7, 2003; Oct 6-9, 2003; May 2-4, 2004; and Oct. 11-14, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ± 2 percentage points. (Press Release "Who Supports the Death Penalty?" by Joseph Carroll, Gallup Poll (November 16, 2004)).
Zogby Polls Finds Dramatic Decline in Catholic Support For the Death Penalty

A national poll of Roman Catholic adults conducted by Zogby International found that Catholic support for capital punishment has declined dramatically in recent years. The Zogby Poll was released on March 21, 2005 at a press conference of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as it announced a new Campaign to End the Use of the Death Penalty. The poll revealed that only 48% of Catholics now support the death penalty. Comparable polls by other organizations had registered a 68% support among Catholics in 2001. In addition, the percentage of Catholics who are strongly supportive of capital punishment hs halved, from a high of 40% to 20% in the most recent survey. The poll also found that:
    • Regular churchgoers are less likely to support the death penalty than those who attend infrequently.
    • Younger Catholics are among those least likely to support the death penalty.
    • A third of Catholics who once supported the use of the death penalty now oppose it.

Among the major reasons Catholics gave for their opposition to capital punishment was "respect for life," and 63% voiced concerns about what the use of the death penalty "does to us as a people and a country." Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, was joined at the press conference by John Zogby, President of Zogby International, Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, and Kirk Bloodsworth, who was freed from death row after DNA evidence led to his exoneration. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Press Release, March 21, 2005)

Public Religion Research Poll Finds That Mainline Protestant Clergy are Strongly Opposed to the Death Penalty

A national poll of Mainline Protestant clergy conducted in 2008 by Public Religion Research, LLC, revealed that 66% of mainline clergy oppose the death penalty while only 27% support it. The level of opposition to capital punishment varies significantly based on denomination. Eighty-two percent of ministers from the Universal Church of Christ (UCC) and 81% of Episcopal ministers oppose capital punishment. However, only 53% of American Baptist ministers oppose the death penalty. The survey also found that Mainline Protestant ministers are less likely to speak out on controversial social issues. Twenty-six percent of Mainline Protestant clergy state that they often discuss the issue of capital punishment.

The seven largest Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States include the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church USA, American Baptist Churches USA, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). ("Clergy Voices: Findings from the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey," Public Religion Research, March 6, 2009)

 


Related Links


Amensty International's Weekend of Faith in Action
California People of Faith Working Against the Death Penalty
Catholics Against Capital Punishment
Catholic Mobilizing Network to End Use of the Death Penalty
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Religion and the Death Penalty links
Dead Man Walking School Theater Project
Death Penalty Curriculum - a Sunday school curriculum for adults and older youth
Death Penalty Focus: Clergy Mobilization Project
IHM Sisters of Monroe, Michigan resources on the death penalty
I was in Prison and You Visited Me
Living the Questions - Questioning Capital Punishment with Sister Helen Prejean
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty - Religious Perspectives on Capital Punishment
People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
Religion and Politics 2008 - compares 2008 presidential candidates' religious views and views on hot topics, including the death penalty
Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty - A Project of the American Friends Service Committee
Speaking of Faith: Death Penalty Reflections - Interviews with Sister Helen Prejean, Debbie Morris, and Rev. Sarah Griffith (free on iTunes)
Theology Library: The Death Penalty
The United Methodist Church: The Political Community: Capital Punishment
Religious Tolerance