Wednesday, October 21, 2015

National Evangelical Group Takes More Flexible Stance On Capital Punishment

The National Association of Evangelicals this week released a new Resolution on Capital Punishment (full text) adopted at its semi-annual meeting.  The Resolution recognizes that instead of the previous widespread support for capital punishment, now Evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs as to whether capital punishment should be a part of American law.  The Resolution offers arguments both for and against the death penalty, saying in part:
As evangelicals, we believe that moral revulsion or distaste for the death penalty is not a sufficient reason to oppose it. But leaders from various parts of the evangelical family have made a biblical and theological case either against the death penalty or against its continued use in a society where biblical standards of justice are difficult to reach. In Mosaic Law, standards of evidence were stringent, requiring a minimum of two eyewitnesses who were willing to stake their own lives on the truthfulness of their testimony and who would initiate the execution by “casting the first stone.” Circumstantial evidence was not permitted. The contemporary American system is unlikely to reach such standards of evidence, and given the utter seriousness of capital crimes, the alarming frequency of post-conviction exonerations leads to calls for radical reform....
Other evangelicals continue to support the death penalty in limited circumstances as a legitimate exercise of the state’s responsibility to administer justice, and as a deterrent to crime. They point to heinous crimes, such as mass murder, terrorism, and the abduction, rape and murder of a young child, in which the perpetrator is caught on camera or is seen by multiple witnesses, where the evidence is overwhelming and there are no issues of mental incompetency. In such cases, some evangelicals argue for swift prosecution, with necessary safeguards, and if appropriate application of the death penalty as the best way to render justice, deter future crimes and allow the victim’s family and community to heal.