Jewish Clergy & Community Leaders Congressional Sign-On Letter

Congress

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Letter From Jewish Clergy & Community Leaders to Congress: End Federal Executions

While the Torah permits the death penalty, the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, imposes severe limits on capital punishment even when the crime is murder. There are countless preconditions which must be met in order for a Sanhedrin to issue and carry out an execution, many of which are designed not only to assess guilt, but levels of culpability. The execution of someone when there is any level of doubt about guilt or fairness is forbidden.

Being a religious Jew is not just about observing traditional mitzvot but also about being responsibly immersed within society as an active enlightened moral agent partnering for social progress that enhances dignity for all. Our engagement in the political and social realm of society may indeed be even more religiously important than our pious acts within the sanctuary.

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with all concerned citizens and without regard to partisanship, call to the United States Congress:

  • Speak out against any federal executions which may be scheduled by the Attorney General;
  • Address pervasive and systemic racism in the criminal legal system by ending the federal death penalty;
  • Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing H.R. 4052, legislation to end the federal death penalty and prohibit any further federal executions;
  • Investigate the Trump reelection campaign's scripting of federal executions and address any ethics violations or violations of the law, if found;
  • Investigate the conduct of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons in light of troubling facts raising questions about the legality and constitutionality of the executions conducted on July 14, 16, 2020;
  • Close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation's stated desire that Lezmond Mitchell not face execution.

Thank you for joining me by signing this petition and asking others you know to do so as well.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Founder & President: Uri L'Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice
Board of Advisors: Death Penalty Action

For more information visit: http://deathpenaltyaction.org/federal-death-penalty

PLEASE NOTE:

Signers are invited to inform others about their participation in this campaign, and to invite participation as individuals, fellow Jewish Clergy, Fellow non-Jewish Clergy, and organizations. You will receive an e-mail with sample text and links to share.

Additional Jewish resources on the death penalty are here: http://deathpenaltyaction.org/jewish-action

Additional information for everyone is here: http://deathpenaltyaction.org/federal-death-penalty

This will be an ongoing effort until the federal death penalty is abolished. The ask to Congress may be modified at times to remove old information and freshen it with current or arising issues, such as the update on 8/20/2020 to add an ask to investigate and close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation and execute its citizen, Lezmond Mitchell.

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To: Congress
From: [Your Name]

Jewish tradition presents somewhat contradictory statements regarding the death penalty. While the Torah permits the death penalty, the Talmud, in Tractate Sanhedrin, imposes severe limits on capital punishment even when the crime is murder.

There are countless preconditions which must be met in order for a Sanhedrin to issue and carry out an execution, many of which are designed not only to assess guilt, but levels of culpability. The execution of someone when there is any level of doubt about guilt or fairness is forbidden, and even where there is no question of guilt, Jewish law makes executions practically impossible. Certainly, contemporary US federal death penalty statute does not meet the requirements established to ensure fairness, accuracy and culpability in the Torah (The Five Books of Moses).

We, the undersigned, do not believe secular law should be beholden to any faith's teachings, however the lessons of those teachings certainly may inform our thinking. We believe the teaching is clear: It is not for human beings to decide who lives and who dies. Therefore, we stand in solidarity with all concerned citizens and without regard to partisanship, call to the United States Congress:

* Speak out against any federal executions which may be scheduled by the Attorney General;
Address pervasive and systemic racism in the criminal legal system by ending the federal death penalty;
* Remove the power of the president to use executions for his own political purposes by passing H.R. 4052, legislation to end the federal death penalty and prohibit any further federal executions;
* Investigate the Trump reelection campaign's scripting of federal executions and address any ethics violations or violations of the law, if found;
* Investigate the conduct of the Attorney General, the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Prisons in light of troubling facts raising questions about the legality and constitutionality of the executions conducted on July 14 and 16, 2020;
* Close the legal loophole that allowed the federal government to override the Navajo Nation's stated desire that Lezmond Mitchell not face execution.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these matters: