Evangelical Shift on Death Penalty?

on October 22, 2015

Institute on Religion and Democracy Press Release
October 22, 2015
Contact: Jeff Walton office: 202-682-4131, cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org

“Should traditional church teachings be abruptly dumped in vain pursuit of wider social approval?”
-Mark Tooley, IRD President

Washington, DC—The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has revised its previous support for capital punishment in favor of citing Evangelicals on both sides. A recent poll says 71 percent of white Evangelicals, who comprise the vast majority of NAE’s constituency, support capital punishment, the strongest margin in any major religious group.

“We affirm the conscientious commitment of both streams of Christian ethical thought,” the recent NAE resolution declared.

While the NAE affirmed both sides on the issue of capital punishment, it did not affirm multiple perspectives on other political topics it has addressed including opposing nuclear deterrence and favoring legalizing illegal immigrants.

The NAE counts over 40 denominations as members, including the Salvation Army, the Assemblies of God, the Church of the Nazarene and the Presbyterian Church in America. IRD in recent years has criticized NAE’s more liberal political stances on the environment and federal budget, asking whether most NAE constituents support those stances and whether they are backed by historic church teaching.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

“Clearly NAE’s drift and intent is towards critique of capital punishment.

“Church bodies should address moral issues through the lens of historic Christian thought, reflecting with the whole church, past and present, and not striving to align with transitory secular trends. But there’s little theology in the NAE’s new resolution, which instead focuses on differences of opinion in their constituency, while implicitly inclining toward the supposedly ‘growing number’ on the liberal side.

“Shouldn’t the NAE have seriously interacted with historic Christian teaching on an important ethical issue before jumping in a new direction? Or does the NAE prefer to join the habit of liberal mainline Protestants to jettison traditional teachings by votes among select elites in vain pursuit of wider social approval?”


  1. Comment by Whatever on October 25, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I think you could argue that life in prison is crueler than a swift execution, and as Christians I think we ought to be on the side of mercy. I’m pro-life, and I don’t see any inconsistency in protecting an innocent unborn and in administering the death penalty in cases where the person’s guilt is certain. Charles Manson and his gang should have been executed long ago. As vile as they were, I think they have been over-punished by holding them in prison all these years.

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