taking the words of Jesus seriously

We might just be witnessing the generation that ends the death penalty in the U.S. Studies show that support for state-sanctioned executions are at an all-time low, thanks in large part to the public education, advocacy, and witness of committed abolitionists.

Earlier in January, 18 anti-death penalty abolitionists were arrested at the U.S. Supreme Court for displaying a 30-foot-long banner that read “STOP EXECUTIONS!” on the steps of the Court. This nonviolent protest was one of the largest acts of civil resistance against the death penalty in modern history.

The arrested group, known as the DC 18, included both families of the murdered and the executed, an exonerated death row survivor, clergy and lay leaders, and national figures in the death penalty abolition movement — including Shane Claiborne, Red Letter Christian co-founder and author of Executing Grace: How the Death Penalty Killed Jesus and Why It’s Killing Us. All 18 abolitionists were held overnight in jail and released the following day, with 12 of those arrested scheduled for trial in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2017.

“The death penalty is a masquerade of justice and mirrors the very evil it seeks to rid the world of, “ says Shane Claiborne, “I am honored to be one of the DC 18. We stand together with families of the murdered and families of the executed to say NO to all killing, both legal and illegal.”

The trial takes place a day before the 24th Annual “Starvin’ for Justice” Fast & Vigil to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, D.C. (June 29-July 2). This four-day vigil and nonviolent direct action — organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee (AAC) — has been held at the Supreme Court every summer since 1994. The AAC also organized the January protest, which led to the arrest of the DC 18.

In preparation for the upcoming trial and week of action, join the Teach-In & Vigil for Death Penalty Abolition on Tuesday, June 27, from 4pm to 5pm ET. The teach-in will be held in Washington, D.C., but supporters can engage online through Facebook Live. Hear from experts, activists, and faith leaders as they offer both a legal overview of the death penalty and the theology behind abolition. Download the toolkit and discussion guide here.

And pray for the 12 abolitionist defendants facing trial on June 28. May their moral witness not be in vein, helping to eventually turn the tide and ending the U.S. death penalty once and for all.

About The Author


Elaina is the former Interim Executive Director and Editor of RLC. A passionate community organizer and a former editor for Sojourners magazine, Elaina loves listening to people’s stories and engaging communities for social change. She holds a master's in theological studies from Wesley Theological Seminary and a master's degree in international peace and conflict resolution from American University. Elaina serves as the executive director of a religious pro-choice organization. She resides in Ohio with her dogs and is an avid singer, traveler, and camper.

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