More than 300 leaders from across North Carolina, representing all the state’s major faith traditions, signed this letter that was sent to Gov. Cooper on April 14. See the document at the bottom for the full list of signatories. This letter was re-released on World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10th with nearly 50 new signatures.
Dear Governor Cooper,
As leaders from a host of faith communities across North Carolina, we come together to speak with one voice about the death penalty. Our faith practices and sacred scriptures may differ in form and substance, but they agree on this matter: the death penalty is immoral and cruel. As you well know, we can add to those faith-filled claims the fact that it is also inherently racist. Many states have already ended state sanctioned killing and it is our prayer that you will do everything in your power to add North Carolina to that list.
We represent faith traditions including Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and more. In a state where nearly eighty percent of our residents identify with a faith tradition, we unite our voices in the call to end state-sanctioned executions. While there are many valid reasons to end the death penalty, one of the most salient is grounded in the human potential for repentance. When retribution (death) replaces restitution (life), we ignore the possibility of redemption. We deny those who are created in the Image of God the opportunity to choose a different way to live.
In addition to our faith claims, the system we have to mete out punishment in North Carolina is rife with racial and wealth bias. Having been born out of the racist institutions of slavery and segregation, the death penalty was unethical from the beginning. There is nothing in the modern implementation of capital cases to persuade us this has changed. More than 60 percent of those on death row are people of color, and nearly half were sentenced by overwhelmingly white juries. Cases with white victims are still far more likely to result in death sentences. Over and over we see the death penalty assigned to people who are poor, who have mental illness, and who are survivors of physical and psychological trauma, and of course, people of color. Add to all of this the possibility that someone else on death row might actually be innocent. As you know, twelve people, eleven of whom are people of color, have been exonerated.
You can change this for North Carolina. We implore you to use your power to commute the sentences of the 137 people on North Carolina’s death row. Spare our state from further participation in a system that devalues the humanity of all of us. As you know, North Carolina has the unfortunate distinction of housing the nation’s fifth largest death row, and more than three-quarters of those people were tried in the 1990s or earlier. You can change this by commuting these death sentences to prison terms.
Please receive this letter as the beginning of a conversation. Behind our names are thousands of North Carolinians, many of whom have for decades called for the end of the death penalty. As we renew our commitment to this cause, with the help of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, we expect a groundswell of support from our congregations and other faith communities across North Carolina.
We know you are also a person of faith who already knows much about the arguments we have made in this letter. Help lead our state out of the darkness of the death penalty. Help make North Carolina a place of possibility and hope for all who call this place home.
May god bless you.