South Dakotans for 
Alternatives to the Death Penalty

The majority of organized denominations with congregations in South Dakota oppose the death penalty:

Roman Catholic Church

Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. 

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

--Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2267

 “We cannot attempt to teach that killing is wrong by state-sanctioned killing. This is precisely the moment for us as a state and for our leaders to affirm that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable for their actions, but in a way that teaches the sacredness of all persons gifted by God with life. This is a message we desperately need in our time, as this brutal murder so painfully reminds us. We have had enough violence in our society. The death penalty only adds more.”

--Joint statement on the death penalty by Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Former Bishop Rapid City, and Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

It is because of this church's commitment to justice that we oppose the death penalty. Lutheran Christians have called for an assault on the root causes of violent crime, [11] an assault for which executions are no substitute. The ongoing controversy surrounding the death penalty shows the weaknesses of its justifications. We would be a better society by joining the many nations that have already abolished capital punishment.

United Methodist Church

We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in that person's life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.

--From the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 2004.

Mennonite Church USA

In view of our Christian responsibility to value all human life we are compelled to set forth our opposition to all capital punishment.


The General Conference Mennonite Church called for "federal and state governments . . .to discontinue the use of the death penalty" at Estes Park, Colorado, July 16, 1965; 

The Mennonite Church called for "federal and state governments . . . to discontinue the use of the death penalty" at Kidron, Ohio, August 1965; 

The criminal justice system has sent innocent people to death row, and the death penalty is applied in a racially-discriminatory fashion, and disproportionately to some of society's most vulnerable people; and 

We acknowledge the deep grief of families of murder victims and victims of capital punishment laws; hold them in our prayers; and commit ourselves to walk with them;

Therefore we resolve that Mennonite Church USA appeal to state and federal governments to abolish the death penalty.

We resolve further that the Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA address this issue with the President of the United States and urge area conferences to address relevant governors.

We further urge congregations to take action to support abolition of the death penalty through prayer, letter writing, and public vigils at murder sites and at prisons where executions occur.

--A resolution adopted by the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly on July 7th, 2001

American Baptist Church

“Therefore, the General Board of the American Baptist Churches recommends the abolition of capital punishment in those states which still practice it and urges churches and members of our American Baptist constituency to support groups and agencies working for the abolition of capital punishment in those governmental jurisdictions of the U.S. where it is still authorized by law.”

--Adopted by the American Baptist Convention, in 1958 and 1966, reaffirmed in 1980 and 1982, and modified in 2000

Presbyterian Church

In 1977, the 189th General Assembly called upon its members to:
a. Work to prevent the execution of persons now under sentence of death and further use of the death penalty;
b. Work against attempts to reinstate the death penalty in state and federal law, and where such laws exist, to work for their repeal;
c. Work for the improvement of the justices system to make less radical means available for dealing with persons who are a serious threat to themselves and to the safety and welfare of society.

The most recent statement was made in 1985 by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), reaffirming these positions and declaring “its continuing opposition to capital punishment.”

United Church of Christ

“Be it finally resolved that the Twenty-second General Synod of the United Church of Christ reaffirms the long-standing opposition within the United Church of Christ to the death penalty and urges the abolition of capital punishment as a means of working for justice and maintaining a faithful witness to remember “the lease of these” our sisters and brothers.”

--Twenty-second General Synod, 1999

The Episcopal Church

“Resolved, That this 70th General Convention of the Episcopal Church urge the provinces, dioceses, parishes, missions, and individual members of this Church to engage in serious study on the subject of capital punishment and work actively to abolish the death penalty in their states.”

--70th General Convention, 1991


“The 2000 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges its member congregations to engage actively in efforts to eliminate the death penalty, to work with other organizations in this effort, and to increase efforts to persuade governors to forego capital punishment.”

--The 39th Annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association (2000)
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