Statement on the Death Penalty
Iowa’s Faith Leaders and Clergy
January 31, 2018
It is with heavy hearts that we come together as one voice to speak up and stand against the introduction of the death penalty in Iowa. For many reasons, based on the spectrum of our faiths and religious traditions we represent as well as the clear societal concerns surrounding the implementation of the death penalty, we fervently oppose the death penalty and ask you as elected officials to oppose it as well.
We come with heavy hearts because our beloved Iowa is considering legislation we know to be wrong, immoral, and contrary to the facts that have become so apparent across the nation.
The data and facts are clear. The implementation of the death penalty is influenced by the racial undertones of our nation’s history. African American men are adversely and disproportionately impacted. They are more likely to be given the death penalty upon conviction, especially if the victim is white. This alone is argument enough against the death penalty, but we have additional concerns.
We, along with most Americans, are concerned about innocent people being sentenced to death. Seven of every ten adults believe there is a risk an innocent person will be put to death. Fifty percent of Americans say minorities are more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for the same crime. Between 1973 and 2015, 153 innocent people—innocent people—were exonerated with evidence of their innocence and released from death row.
We, along with most Americans, understand the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. States with the lowest murder rates do not have the death penalty, while states with the highest murder rates do have the death penalty. A 2009 poll found police chiefs ranked the death penalty last among ways to reduce violent crime and the least efficient use of taxpayers’ money to deter crime.
We, along with most Americans, know the cost of implementing the death penalty is too high a price to pay in terms of our scarce public dollars. In Oklahoma, capital cases cost on average 3.2 times more than non-capital cases. In a state like Iowa that is unable to adequately fund basic, public services such as PK-12 and higher education or provide basic protections for children and the least of those amongst us, we have no business adding the unnecessary costs of implementing the death penalty.
The use of the death penalty by states is on the decline. Seven states have abolished the death penalty since 2007, including New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and Delaware. Multiple states have placed a suspension or moratorium on executions. Only five states account for all executions in 2016 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas), which tells us other states understand the death penalty is not a fair or reasonable action for a state to take. Iowa has not had the death penalty since 1965.
We, along with most Americans, do not support the death penalty. A 2010 poll found 61% of voters would choose a punishment other than the death penalty for murder.
At its core, our opposition to the death penalty is based in our faith traditions that inform our beliefs on what is right and wrong and what we must stand against on behalf of our faith and human rights. Our collective faiths compel us to use our voices to declare the death penalty wrong and immoral. The government should not kill a human being as retribution or punishment, regardless of the person’s actions.
As faith leaders and clergy across the state, we implore you to stand with us and say no to allowing the death penalty in Iowa. It is unfair, unnecessary, ineffective, and morally wrong.
- The “Iowa’s Faith Leaders and Clergy Statement on the Death Penalty” is for faith leaders and clergy only. We believe the power of this statement will be because faith leaders are speaking up. Together.
- The names of those who sign will be published. By signing the statement, you are giving us permission to publish your title, name, religious affiliation, and town in emails, online, and in print. We will only publish your congregation or organization if you include it on the online form. We will not publish your email address.
- If you are not a faith leader or clergy, please speak up against the death penalty legislation by contacting your legislator directly by phone or email. You can determine your legislator and their contact information at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find.