On February 28, an interfaith gathering of religious leaders met on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge. They gathered to pray, present a petition signed by more than 200 Louisiana faith leaders who oppose House Bill 6 and in recognition of International Death Penalty Abolition Day (March 1st). 

“Not in our name” was a frequent refrain of faith leaders from the Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, Methodist, Muslim, Presbyterian, Quaker, Unitarian Universalist and United Church of Christ denominations and traditions. Either present or represented through a statement, participants shared from their personal convictions and faith traditions, sacred texts, as well as histories of conflict and suffering. They gathered in support of life and to call for the end of the death penalty.

Faith leaders asked that the lives of persons on death row be spared and reminded attendees of the inherent dignity of all life. They called for accountability that prevents future harm and addresses the root causes of violence.

“As ministers to many of our greatest societal problems, we advocate for systemic solutions to violent harm that address our communities’ needs for healing, justice, and love, not vengeance and more violence,” Alison McCrary, a Spiritual Advisor on Louisiana’s Death Row for 19 years and the Director for Louisiana InterFaith against Executions (L.I.F.E.), said. The majority of religious communities nationwide oppose the death penalty as an affront to our basic religious principles that uphold the sanctity of life. We stand together as a statewide interfaith coalition in opposition to the death penalty and against the cruel and inhumane methods of execution in House Bill 6.” 

Faith leaders read the names of the 56 persons currently on death row, asking “for life and mercy.” They also prayed for the “peace and solace” of their victims and the victim’s families. In addition, the group prayed for the government leaders inside the building involved in the decision-making and asked them to reconsider putting people to death.

“As a rabbi and religious Jew, I am personally opposed to the death penalty as it is currently carried out in the United States,” Rabbi Phil Kaplan of Congregation Beth Israel in Metairie said. “But more urgently, I am deeply opposed to and troubled by the introduction of gassing as a method of execution, which unmistakably and immediately evokes for millions of American Jews horrific memories of the depravities our ancestors endured at the hands of Nazi Germany, when lethal gas was used to mass murder our people. For these reasons and many others, we as a civilized society should not resurrect this barbaric method of execution.” 

The press conference ended with faith leaders singing “We Rise,” a song by Batya Levine: 

“In hope
In prayer
We find ourselves here
In hope
In prayer
We’re right here.”

For more information about Louisiana Interfaith Against Executions and to watch a replay of the livestream, click here.

(Credit: Louisiana InterFaith against Executions (L.I.F.E.)/ Screen Grab 51:42)

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