A statement opposing the federal government’s plan to execute four inmates was issued July 7. Signed by over 1,000 faith leaders from multiple traditions, it asks the Trump administration to halt the four federal executions scheduled for July and August.
“As faith leaders from a diverse range of traditions, we call on President Trump and Attorney General Barr to stop the scheduled federal executions,” the statement said. “As our country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis and systemic racism in the criminal legal system, we should be focused on protecting and preserving life, not carrying out executions.”
While federal executions have not taken place since 2003, the Federal Bureau of Prisons was directed on June 15, 2020, by Attorney General William Barr “to schedule the executions of four federal death-row inmates who were convicted of murdering children in violation of federal law and who, in two cases, raped the children they murdered.”
This action followed a yearlong legal challenge that arose after Barr sought in July 2019 “to revise the Federal Execution Protocol to provide for the use of a single-drug, pentobarbital,” and to resume federal executions. Appeals by the lawyers of four death-row inmates resulted in the Supreme Court staying the executions in December 2019 until the legal challenges were heard by a lower court. In April 2020, an appeals court ruled that the executions could be carried out, and on June 29, 2020, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by the inmates’ lawyers challenging the government’s lethal injection protocol.
The first federal execution since 2003 was to take place Monday (July 13). However, a federal judge blocked the executions hours before it was to occur. The Justice Department quickly appealed the ruling.
This action by the Trump administration comes at a time when public approval of capital punishment as morally acceptable is at an all-time low, with only 54% of U.S. adults affirming this position (down from a high of 71% approval in 2006).
“Our nation’s faith leaders are united as we speak out against the beginning of federal executions,” said Heather Beaudoin, senior manager of the Equal Justice USA Evangelical Network, and a signatory. “We stand with many Christian state lawmakers on the right – conservative Republican state legislators – who have actually been at the forefront of death penalty repeal efforts in recent years in part because it violates their belief in the sanctity of human life.”
A full list of signatories can be found here.
This piece first appeared at GoodFaithMedia.org and is reprinted with permission.