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The National Council of Churches opposes the Justice Department’s decision to reinstate the federal death penalty and to schedule the execution of five persons. We affirm our longstanding view that the death penalty is both a violation of the dignity and worth of human beings and has also proven to be ineffective as a deterrent (see the 21st Century Social Creed and our statement of September 13, 1968). 


Additionally, the pervasiveness of systemic racism and classism intrinsic within the criminal legal process means the death penalty is neither fair nor just.  In fact, we know that hundreds of people who have been sentenced to death — or actually executed by the state — have been determined to be innocent. In a time when states are ceasing this abominable practice, it is abhorrent that the federal government would seek to revive it.  


Our Christian faith is clear that life and the dignity of human personhood are sacred gifts of God and as such shall not be violated. Institutionalized killing contributes to the brutalization of society. Such a final and heinous decision should not be left to the discretion of flawed humans and broken systems. Furthermore, society is served better by a system of restorative justice: as all are made in the image of God, we stand firm in our belief as Christians that all can be redeemed.