WASHINGTON —The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty announced on Tuesday the launch of a new coalition uniting human rights organizations, religious groups, and pro-liberty advocacy groups to pressure state governments to put an end to capital punishment.
The coalition, which has up to 15 national partnering organizations, is named the "90 Million Strong" campaign, which signifies the 33 percent of Americans, according to Gallup polls, who say they oppose the death penalty.
With only 28 states and the District of Columbia not currently using the death penalty, and seven states carrying out the death penalty in 2014, the coalition aims to fully mobilize the "90 million" Americans to lobby state-by-state to get the other states that still actively use the death penalty to halt what they claim are "unfair" and immoral practices.
Included in joining the coalition as national partners are various faith-based groups such as the Christian social justice organization Sojourners, Catholic Mobilizing Network and the General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church.
Speaking at the press conference announcing the coalition's launch, Jim Wallis, the president and founder of Sojourners, said that opposition to the death penalty is not a political stance, but rather a stance of Christian morality that can easily cross political boundaries.
Although many think of the conservative right as supporters of capital punishment, Wallis believes that many conservative Christians are starting to signify their opposition to death penalty because capital punishment conflicts with the Biblical teachings.
"The status quo is unacceptable and people of faith are joining together — across theological and political boundaries – in opposing the death penalty because it violates the most sacred of our commitments to the life that God has created," Wallis asserted. "I am having conversations all the time with religious conservatives around the country, who are joining up with liberal groups like this and are saying 'this has to end. This is no longer a political issue, this is for us, a moral issue and a Biblical issue."
Wallis continued by saying that society's implementation of the death penalty is often flawed, racially biased and does nothing to protect vulnerable people accused of a crime. Wallis quoted scripture by saying that a society's righteousness is based on how it treats its most vulnerable people.
"The single most important factor to who goes on death row is race. We can't accept that anymore. People who are intellectually disabled, indigent, are the ones on death row. This is wrong in terms of the poor and the vulnerable," Wallis said. "Death penalty does not put the worse crimes on trial, its vulnerable people."
With over 149 death row inmates since 1976 having been exonerated from their crime before they were able to be executed, Wallis said he wonders how many innocent people were wrongfully executed because of the mere existence of the death penalty.
"Only God knows how many people have been killed by the state wrongfully and they tend to be the most vulnerable," Wallis said.
Also speaking at the press conference was Norman Reimer, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who said the American criminal justice system is filled with human imperfection and no court should have the right to issue a death sentence based off of the results from courtroom.
"The practice of government sponsored execution has no place in any civilized criminal justice system. No one knows better than criminal defense lawyers that the criminal justice system is fallible," Reimer asserted. "It is rife with human error at every stage, and it perpetuates racial and ethnic disparity. We simply cannot allow such a system to engage in the taking of human life."
Although 141 countries around the world have abolished the death penalty, America is not one of them despite considering itself as a golden standard of how government should respect individuals human rights.
"It is shameful that the United States holds itself out as a leader in human rights while still carrying out the cruel, inhuman and degrading practice of sentencing prisoners to death," Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins said in a statement. "Over a third of the states have done away with the death penalty. It is time for the rest of the country to follow suit."
Other organizations that have joined the coalition include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Union for Reform Judiasm, Alliance For Justice and the Center For Constitutional Rights.