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Reform Jewish Leader Encouraged By Court’s Stay of Execution; Renews Call for Abolition of Capital Punishment

Saperstein: We are hopeful that this questioning of the constitutionality of the death sentence through methods increasingly recognized to cause extreme suffering will be the first step on the road toward a complete abolition of the death penalty in American criminal law.

Contact: Sean Thibault or Jonah Perlin
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Washington, December 5, 2007 - In response to the stay of execution granted yesterday by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Alabama case of Thomas Arthur, the fourth such stay since the Court agreed to consider the constitutionality of lethal injection in the upcoming case of Baze v. Rees, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. issued the following statement:

We welcome the United States Supreme Court’s recent decisions  in regards to the death penalty.  By accepting the case of Baze v. Rees which will determine the constitutionality of lethal injection and by recently granting stays of execution for death row inmates in Texas, Virginia, Mississippi, and Alabama the Court has made clear its concerns about the practice of capital punishment.  We are hopeful that this questioning of the constitutionality of the death sentence through methods increasingly recognized to cause extreme suffering will be the first step on the road toward a complete abolition of the death penalty in American criminal law.

As Reform Jews, our belief that the death penalty is wrong – both in theory and in practice – is deeply rooted in rabbinic interpretations that effectively abolished the death penalty centuries ago.  We hold fast to the contention that there is no crime for which the taking of human life by society is justified, and we have a societal obligation to evolve other methods to deal with crime.  In the wake of these recent developments we renew our call to end capital punishment and applaud all those who continue working toward a more just legal system.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the
Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more
 than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership
 includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis



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