Moral Considerations

Thou shalt not kill.” — Exodus 20:13
This statement, practiced by faith communities and accepted on moral grounds by non-faith individuals is not tempered by circumstance, including the guilt or the innocence of the person being executed (Gottfried, 2002).


Montana Association of Churches (2004)
“The Montana Association of Churches opposes capital punishment and calls upon the Montana Legislature to abolish the death penalty.”

To see MAC’s entire position statement (PDF format), click here.

Montana Catholic Conference (2002)
“The death penalty is justified only if there is no other way to protect society. The criminal justice system in the State of Montana has a non-lethal option of life without parole to protect its citizens. Death should not be used unnecessarily to solve problems in a setting already characterized as a “culture of death.”

To see the MCC’s entire position statement (PDF format), click here.

Pastor Matt Randles of Headwaters Covenant Church in Helena, MT
The Bible and the Death Penalty, from a presentation at the 2010 National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty conference. Read it here.

Following are statements, resolutions, and positions from religious organizations. [These have been adapted from Amnesty International’s 2004 Faith in Action Guidebook and from “The Death Penalty: The Religious Community Calls for Abolition” by the Religious Organizing Against the Death Penalty Project (coordinated by the American Friends Service Committee.)]


American Baptist Church, USA (1982)
“Therefore, the General Board of the American Baptist Churches recommends the abolition of capital punishment in those states which still practice it and urges churches and
members of our American Baptist constituency to support groups and agencies working for the abolition of capital punishment in those governmental jurisdictions of the U.S. where it is still authorized by law.”

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (2000)
“We, therefore, urge our members to seek God’s justice and denounce the use of the death penalty. We encourage them to remember all those harmed by the violence of crime. …
Jesus Christ calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation and justice. As part of the community of faith, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America joins with many other
voices in following that call. To this end, we denounce the use of the death penalty and urge our members to seek justice for all those who suffer because of violent crimes.”

The Bruderhof Communities
“We oppose the death penalty in all cases, out of reverence for human life and for God, the creator of Life.”

Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) (1991)
“We believe there is a Christian mandate against capital punishment. We know God’s justice and mercy through the teachings of His son, Jesus Christ, who both taught and
practiced the forgiveness of injustice…. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)…support a permanent moratorium on capital punishment whether undertaken for deterrence or redress; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that congregations, regions and general units of this church be encouraged to pursue ways to support and implement the intent of this resolution at the national, provincial, state and local levels.”

Church of the Brethren (1987)
“The Church of the Brethren has consistently opposed the death penalty in its Annual Conference statements of 1957, 1959, and 1975. In July 1979, a General Board resolution reaffirmed those Annual Conference statements. These actions have delineated an understanding of God’s will for us which upholds the sanctity of human life and personality, opposes the use of capital punishment and encourages Brethren to work for the abolition of the death penalty.”

Community of Christ (from Roper v. Simmons amicus brief, 2004)
“Based on the action of its highest legislative body, the Community of Christ opposes the death penalty and prefers to seek ways to achieve healing and restorative justice.”

The Episcopal Church, USA (1979)
“RESOLVED, that this 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church urge the provinces, dioceses, parishes, missions, and individual members of this Church to engage in serious study on the subject of capital punishment and work actively to abolish the death penalty in their states.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1991)
“It is because of this church’s commitment to justice that we oppose the death penalty. Lutheran Christians have called for an assault on the root causes of violent crime, an assault for which executions are no substitute. The ongoing controversy surrounding the death penalty shows the weaknesses of its justifications. We would be a better society by joining the many nations that have already abolished capital punishment.”

Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (from Roper v. Simmons amicus brief, 2004)
“The protection of human rights and the inherent worth of every person and of all human life are of paramount importance and basic principles in the moral teaching of the Greek Orthodox Church. These principles require us to oppose the death penalty for juvenile offenders.”

The Mennonite Central Committee (1982)
“We believe the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches must act to enhance respect for human life, and that this cannot be done through executions.”

The Moravian Church in America (1982)
“RESOLVED: that the Northern Province of the Moravian Church in North American put itself on record as being opposed to capital punishment and that the members of the
Moravian church be urged to work for the abolition of the death penalty.”

Mormons for Equality and Social Justice (2003)
“1. Calls upon all states to abandon the practice of capital punishment.
2. Calls upon the U.S. Congress to declare capital punishment cruel and unusual
punishment by federal statute, and therefore unconstitutional.
3. Urges that all statutes addressing law enforcement, due process, and incarceration be based on security for society and rehabilitation of offenders, not on retribution.”

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (1988)
“In light of its long-standing opposition to capital punishment, and recognizing the necessity for making incremental efforts to eliminate the death penalty, the National Council of
Churches in the U.S.A. reaffirms its opposition to the death penalty and supports legislation that seeks to eliminate racially-biased sentencing.”

The Orthodox Church in America
“BE IT RESEOLVED THAT the Ninth All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America supports the abolition of the death penalty in this and all countries and does urge
our elected and appointed officials in those states where prisoners are still executed to introduce and support appropriate legislation aimed at abolishing the death penalty.”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (1985)
“THEREFORE, the 197th General Assembly (1985): Reaffirms the position of the General Assemblies of the United Presbyterian Church of 1959, 1965, and 1977, and of the Presbyterian Church U.S. of 1966, and declares its continuing opposition to capital punishment.”

Reformed Church in America (1965)
“That in light of the following reason this General Synod go on record as opposing the retention of capital punishment as an instrument of justice within our several states, encouraging forward looking study in all areas related to criminology; supporting all efforts to improve our penal institutions, crime prevention agencies and policy procedures, and effort being made to secure provision of adequate staff and budget for prison, parole boards and similar institutions…”

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (from Roper v. Simmons amicus brief, 2004)
“The SCLC’s founding president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed that the death penalty both violates human rights and is a symptom of violence in society which could never serve
as a remedy to violence. Additionally, the SCLC has opposed the death penalty because of its discriminatory application to the poor and people of color.”

United Church of Christ (1979)
“BE IT RESOLVED that the Twelfth General Synod of the United Church of Christ reaffirm opposition to the death penalty.”

United Methodist Church (1980)
“The United Methodist Church’s position on the death penalty, based on explicit biblical and theological grounds, is clear and unequivocal: This Church ‘declares its opposition to the
retention and use of capital punishment in any form or carried out by any means; the church urges the abolition of capital punishment.’”

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (2005)
“Since 1980, the USCCB has taken a strong and principled position against the use of the death penalty in the United States. We oppose the use of the death penalty not just for
what it does to those guilty of horrible crimes, but for how it affects society; moreover, Pope John Paul II, in both The Gospel of Life and the revised Catechism of the Catholic
Church, states that our society has adequate alternative means today to protect society from violent crime without resorting to capital punishment.”

Humanist / Peace Churches

American Ethical Union(1976)
“The American Ethical Union is unalterably opposed to capital punishment. The willful taking of human life in cruel and inhuman punishment and violates our belief in the intrinsic
worth of every human being. It is wholly unacceptable, whether imposed to prevent repetition of a crime by and individual, as a deterrent to others, or a social retribution.”

American Friends Service Committee (1976)
“The American Friends Service Committee reaffirms its opposition to the death penalty. We base our stand on the Quaker belief that every person has value in the eyes of God and on Quaker testimonies against the taking of human life.”

Fellowship of Reconciliation
“As people of religious and ethical conscience, we seek the restoration and renewal of wrong-doers, not their deaths.”

Friends Committee on National Legislation (1987)
“We seek abolition of capital punishment, because it violates the sacredness of human life and our belief in the human capacity for change. This irreversible penalty cannot be applied equitable and without error. Use of the death penalty by the state powerfully reinforces the idea that killing can be a proper way of responding to those who have wronged us. We do not believe that reinforcement of that idea can lead to healthier and safer communities.”

Friends United Meeting (1960)
“We look with favor upon the renewed efforts in our time to abolish capital punishment, [and] urge our members individually, and our Monthly and Yearly Meetings to unite with
others in the task for removing the death penalty from the statute books of the various states, provinces and central or federal governments, and the United Nations.”

Unitarian Universalist Association (1974 [reaffirmed in 1979)
“BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1974 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association continues to oppose the death penalty in the United States and Canada, and
urges all Unitarian Universalists and their local churches and fellowships to oppose any attempts to restore or continue it in any form.”

Statement by Manish Shah, Lifelong Jain, Board of Trustee, Parliament of the World Religions (2001)
“Jainism, which does not espouse belief in a creator god, has as its ethical core the doctrine of ahimsa, or no injury to all living creatures, and as its religious ideal the perfection of man’s nature, to be achieved predominantly through the monastic and ascetic life. …The death penalty is not consistent with the teachings of Lord Mahavira and the Jain
faith. Ahimsa teaches reverence for all life. A respect for another’s life is respect for one’s own life. This is what it means to experience the dignity of our own life. When we as a
society cannot bear to cause pain to anyone is when we stop violating the laws of life. On this basis, capital punishment must be abolished.”


The American Jewish Committee (1972)
“WHEREAS capital punishment degrades and brutalizes the society which practices it…NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Jewish Committee be recorded as favoring the abolition of the death penalty.”

American Jewish Congress (from Roper v. Simmons amicus brief, 2004)
“The American Jewish Congress is an organization of American Jews founded in 1918 to protect the civil, political, religious, and economic rights of American Jews and all
Americans. It has opposed the death penalty in the United States because it believes that, given the current state of the criminal justice system, it cannot be administered in ways
that comply with elementary notions of justice and fairness.”

Central Conference of American Rabbis (1979)
“Both in concept and in practice, Jewish tradition found capital punishment repugnant, despite Biblical sanctions for it. For the past 2,000 years, with the rarest of exceptions, Jewish courts have refused to punish criminals by depriving them of their lives… We oppose capital punishment under all circumstances.”

National Council of Synagogues (from Roper v. Simmons amicus brief, 2004)
“Our contemporary Jewish religious and moral leaders have developed a consensus that the practice of capital punishment is unacceptable in our time. …Our tradition teaches that
vengeance and retribution neither heal pain nor comfort the bereaved. Responding to violence with violence only breeds more violence and suffering. Though we understand
society’s concerns with punishing the guilty by meting out death as a form of retributive justice, we as religious people are called to a higher moral ground, seeking punishments that
allow for healing, reconciliation and penance. The death penalty annihilates the possibility of reaching this higher ground, all the more so in the case of juvenile executions.”

The Rabbinical Assembly (1995)
“THEREFORE, be it resolved that The Rabbinical Assembly oppose the adoption of death penalty laws and urge their abolition in states that have already adopted them.”

Union of American Hebrew Congregations (1959)
“We believe, further, that the practice of capital punishment serves no practical purpose. Experience in several states and nations has demonstrated that capital punishment is not
effective as a deterrent to crime. Moreover, we believe that this practice debases our entire penal system and brutalizes the human spirit….We appeal to our congregants and to our co-religionists, and to all who cherish God’s mercy and love, to join in efforts to eliminate this practice which lies as a stain upon civilization and our religious conscience.”


Buddhist Peace Fellowship
“Society is like a dense fabric, made of many intertwined threads. Murder is like a violent tear in the fabric. The death penalty is like trying to repair the tear by cutting away at the
fabric when we should take care to weave the many split threads back into the fabric…. We oppose all executions, in keeping with the First Precept of Buddhism, which says not to
harm any living thing.”

Engaged Zen Foundation
“I am reverential and mindful of all life, I am not violent and I do not kill.”

Native American

Yvonne Swann, International Indian Treaty Council Information Office, San Francisco, CA
“I am a member of the Sinixt/Arrow Lakes Nation. … The death penalty was imposed on my people from the day that the colonizers first set foot on this land. …We don’t believe in
the death penalty. If we did, there wouldn’t be any other people here but the indigenous peoples. We believe in sharing. We are a loving and peaceful people.”

For Montana Tribal Positions on the death penalty, please see this article.

American Catholic Death Penalty Update

Catholics Against the Death Penalty


Bishop Thomas testifies on behalf of Senate Bill 236 in the Montana State Senate Judiciary Committee. SB 236 repeals the death penalty and replaces it with a sentence of life …
Reverend Su DeBree United Methodist
The Most Reverend Brady Vardemann (Montana Catholic Conference)