The death penalty

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The death penalty is the method of taking a person’s life as a penalty for a single offense they have done after a proper court trial has taken place. The state is the only one permitted to use it, and where any non-state entity kills an individual, it is referred to as murder. Some nations around the world practice the death penalty, but Amnesty International announced in 2012 that some 141 countries have repealed it either through statute or practice. In recent years, the death penalty has provoked much controversy as to whether it is constitutionally correct.This issue has gone to divide both secular and religious people on their stand in regards to if it is right or wrong to take the life of an individual as punishment. Many of the religious groups have become divided on the stand on capital punishment. For instance, the Catholic Church throughout its history supported and even was part of some executions but in 1997 it amended its Catechism prohibiting the death penalty in almost all the cases. Other religious groups like Buddhists, Judaism, and liberal Protestants have been active against the practice of the death penalty and have been putting efforts towards its abolishment (Novak 2016). Islam on the hand is accepting of the death penalty while Hinduism has not made an official stand.

Christian Position

Christian arguments both for and against the death penalty use secular arguments but just like all the religious groups they always use evidence from their faith to make an additional case. Throughout history, the Christian Churches have always accepted the death penalty as necessary for the functioning of the society. It was only until 1997 when amendments were made to the Catholic Catechism stating that the Capital Punishment was no longer necessary (Berkowitz 2012) . Many of the Catholics and Christians believe that it is only God who has the right to create and take life and this argument is also applied to the opposition of euthanasia and abortion. The liberal Protestants against the death penalty use the same arguments as the Catholics where they stress on the dignity of all human life and the racial implication of how the death penalty is implemented (Novak 2016). The Christians who believe in the death penalty support their stand on the grounds that the government does not act on its own authority but by the authority given to them as agents of God who has the legal right and power over life and death. Those against the death penalty base it on the commandment that “thou shall not kill.” The anti-death penalties argue that Christianity is all about forgiveness and compassion and this law contradicts it. Some also claim that in many countries the death penalty is usually biased against the poor. The capital punishment contradicts the general Christian stand that life should always be protected and supported which is also applied to issues like euthanasia and abortion.

Judaism Position

Judaism also stresses on the significance of upholding human dignity even when one commits the worst of crimes. They have put in efforts to achieve a world that protects all human life as unique and sacred. The Jewish death penalty opponents argue that in the distant past the authorities had a hard time proving the complete guilt of those who were to be executed and even the system of today as well at times cannot be sure of the guilt of the person being killed. Even at the time when the Jewish law was both secular and religious jurisdiction the Jewish courts rarely ever sentenced one to the death penalty. In the state of Israel, the death penalty for any crime that will be tried there has been abolished. A central belief of Judaism is that by executing a man, they are denied the opportunity for change and redemption. Israel abolished the capital punishment in 1954, and it is only exempted when one commits Nazi war crimes (Berkowitz 2012). Adolf Eichman a Nazi war criminal is the only man who has been executed in the last fifty-four years. The death penalty is only allowed under some questionable circumstances. The Orthodox Judaism has a theory that the death penalty as a punishment for some crimes is just and correct. But they also emphasize that to apply this practice of punishment it should be carried out by humans who have a justice system that is close to perfect a situation that is impossible to come by nowadays.

Islam Position

Islam as a whole accepts the death penalty, but they still emphasize on forgiveness and peace as they are predominant themes of the Quran. Muslims believe that the death penalty is the most severe punishment, but it is one that may be passed by a court for crimes that are serious. Islamic countries vary in the methods of execution as some choose hanging, beheading, stoning, and firing squad while others want public execution. The Islamic countries that practice stringent Sharia laws have been known to use the death penalty as retribution for many crimes. As for countries like Albania and Bosnia they still practice the death penalty in their penal system but are in the process of abolishing it (Peters 2014). The death penalty is appropriate in the Islamic law for two types of crime; the first one is Intentional Murder whereby the family of the victim will be given an option either insisting on a punishment of the same severity or not. The second one is Fasad fil-ardh which is explained as the spread of mischief in the land, on doing this offense Islam agrees to a death penalty for any individual who tries to undermine the state authority (Peters 2014). Some of the crimes that are considered to be spreading mischief in the land include terrorism, rape, treason or apostasy, adultery, homosexual activity, and piracy of any kind. Though Islam as a whole is for the capital punishment, there is a growing group of abolitionist. For instance, the Ulamas are not in agreement in the interpretation of the sacred texts and also do not agree in how they are applied in the social context.

Conclusion

The death penalty has led to a growing debate on whether it is morally right or wrong in both the secular and religious aspect. It has resulted in many religious groups being divided as most of them even use their holy books to support their stand. Every religious group whether they are for or against the capital punishment believe that the human life is valuable. Those against the death penalty refer to it as cruel, inhumane, and degrading as those for it see it as a way of removing evil from the society and stopping it from happening again. Most of the religious groups will continue to have a variance on whether this practice should continue being used although most of the countries are moving towards abolishing it.

References

Berkowitz, B. A. (2012). Execution and Invention: Death Penalty Discourse in Early Rabbinic and Christian Cultures. Oxford University Press.

Novak, A. (2016). The Global Decline of the Mandatory Death Penalty. Routledge.

Peters, R. (2014). Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law. Cambridge University Press.

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