Death Penalty

(Photo : Paige/Flickr/CC)

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has moved away from its original death penalty stance, saying that it can be both supported or opposed based on biblical scripture.

Most of the evangelicals still support death penalty, but many are now changing their perspective, basing their view on sanctity of life laid down in scripture.

"A strong majority of evangelicals are still in favor of the death penalty, but that's moving from an overwhelming majority to a strong one. My guess is that shifting will continue; that's why they are called trends; they continue," Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, told Religion News Service.

"This is a sign of shifting, but not decidedly changing sides, on the death penalty," he continued.

statement by the NAE Board of Directors reads:

"Evangelical Christians differ in their beliefs about capital punishment, often citing strong biblical and theological reasons either for the just character of the death penalty in extreme cases or for the sacredness of all life, including the lives of those who perpetrate serious crimes and yet have the potential for repentance and reformation. We affirm the conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought."

NAE, which is represented by over 45,000 churches across 40 denominations, had supported the death penalty since 1970s, but the organization passed a resolution observing different views on capital punishment.

In 2011, about 77 percent white evangelicals supported death penalty, but the number declined to 71 percent three years later, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

About 66 percent of white Protestants favored capital punishment, compared to 63 percent of Catholics.

Public support for death penalty waned from 78 percent in 1996 to about 56 percent in 2014.

Overall, the survey shows American support for the death penalty has dropped from 78 percent in 1996 to 56 percent in 2014.

At present, some 31 states in US allow death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of executions has came down in the past 11 years.

The resolution passed by NAE acknowledges that government is divinely tasked with giving justice, even though humans are fallible and that no judicial system is perfect. The statement said that evangelicals aspire for a reform in the criminal justice system.

"Such reform should improve public safety, provide restitution to victims, rehabilitate and restore offenders, and eliminate racial and socio-economic inequities in law enforcement, prosecution and sentencing of defendants."



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