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Reform Jewish Movement Joins Religious Organizations in Amicus Brief Against the Juvenile Death Penalty

Contact: Alexis Rice or David Segal
202.387.2800

Saperstein: We have a long-overdue opportunity to clear America's conscience of a barbaric and inhumane practice.

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2004 - The Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis joined an amicus curiae brief today along with a diverse coalition of religious organizations. The brief is being filed in the case of Roper v. Simmons which is headed to the United States Supreme Court following a Missouri Supreme Court ruling condemning capital punishment for juvenile offenders as unconstitutional. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We are proud to join in this amicus brief with almost 30 religious organizations who share our belief that juvenile capital punishment is unjust. Through this effort, we have a long-overdue opportunity to clear America's conscience of a barbaric and inhumane practice.

The Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis have long held that juvenile capital punishment violates not only the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment but also the moral ideals of our religious tradition. In fact, every major Jewish denomination is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty for minors; six other Jewish organizations also signed this brief.

Though the Bible calls for execution for dozens of offenses, over 2,000 years of rabbinic wisdom teach us to reject an ultimate punishment that removes even the possibility of redemption and rehabilitation. Our opposition is even stronger in the case of juveniles, who do not have the full capacity to distinguish between right and wrong.

We commend the US Conference of Catholic Bishops for their leadership and moral vision on this issue and their work in crafting this brief. As we stated in a 1959 resolution on capital punishment and reaffirmed in the brief today, "We pledge ourselves to join with like-minded Americans in trying to prevent crime by removal of its causes, and to foster modern methods of rehabilitation of the wrongdoer in the spirit of the Jewish tradition of tshuva (repentance)."

The case is Roper v. Simmons (No 03-633). The brief was coordinated and authored in part by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Other signatories include: Alliance of Baptists; American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; American Friends Service Committee; American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Bruderhof Communities Church International; Buddhist Peace Fellowship; Church Women United; Community of Christ; Engaged Zen Foundation; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition; General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church; Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop and Primate, The Episcopal Church in the United States of America; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Clifton Kirkpatrick, as Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); Rev. Dwight M. Lundgren, Board of National Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA; Mennonite Central Committee; Muslim Public Affairs Council; Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights (Karamah); National Council of Synagogues; Prison Dharma Network; Progressive Jewish Alliance; Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Church of Christ.

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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(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis .



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