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NCC Supports Moratorium On Death Penalty
A Statement by the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary

June 26, 2000 

The debate over capital punishment is looming large on the political horizon. Both major candidates, Vice-President Al Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush, will certainly have to face this question as the campaign moves toward the first Tuesday in November.  The National Council of Churches has firmly stated its opposition to the death penalty and continues to do so since ultimate judgment rests with God, the creator of life. 

Capital punishment is no proven deterrent to the crime of murder.  It is a punishment replete with fatal flaws and constant errors.   Its imperfections are repeatedly exposed by modern, effective scientific methods that have already saved the lives of 87 prisoners who would have been otherwise executed by the state had it not been for DNA evidence that established their innocence.  Moreover, 95 percent of Americans favor DNA testing in all death-row cases where it might prove an inmate’s innocence or guilt.   

The irreversible consequence is clear: there are no means of redress for those condemned who have actually been killed by the state, whether local or federal.  Public scrutiny and communities of faith are increasingly taking strong oppositional stands against the death penalty.  Congress has a current slate of bills calling for a federal and state moratorium on capital punishment.  A moratorium on the death penalty is, at this point in time, a most attractive, fair and correct position to assume regarding state executions.  It clearly affords an opportunity to examine the purpose of the penalty, its perceived effectiveness and can literally save the lives of the falsely condemned to die at the hands of the state. 

As more interest in the moratorium grows, the National Council of Churches calls upon its members to thoroughly study the issue of “state sanctioned” death, and develop an ecumenical position on this critical matter, expressing those views in favor of a moratorium to their respective elected officials prior to the November elections. 

This is not a partisan issue.  It is one that cuts through every division in American society.  It is literally a matter of life and death.  And the Biblical mandate states, “therefore, choose life.” 


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