Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
2027 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone (202) 387- 2800
Fax (202) 667- 9070

December 4, 2000

Dear President Clinton:

On the eve of your departure from office, the nation is on the eve of the first federal execution in nearly forty years. We write to urge you to declare an executive moratorium on federal executions and to grant clemency to Juan Raul Garza. The United States should not carry out this death sentence at a time when the nation questions the reliability and fairness of capital punishment.

The overwhelming majority of communities of faith are united in their opposition to the death penalty. We address you as members of religious organizations that minister daily to the profound suffering caused when a life is taken by an act of violence. However, we are called upon to guard the sanctity of every life. We also give comfort to the children and other loved ones of the condemned when the government carries out an execution. Alternatives to capital punishment, including life in prison without the possibility of release, will both protect society and ensure that justice is done.

In the past year, calls by the faith community to support a moratorium on executions have been joined by a diverse chorus of voices, including those of respected members of all three branches of government, public figures across the political spectrum, local and state governing bodies, civil rights leaders, professional associations and grass roots organizations. At no time since the death penalty was halted in 1972, have Americans, individually and collectively, expressed such grave reservations about capital punishment.

Concerns over the continued imposition of the death penalty involve not only issues of wrongful convictions, incompetent counsel and prosecutorial misconduct, but also the inadequacy of judicial review, the unequal treatment of the poor and people of color, and geographic disparities. The public and policymakers are facing the unpleasant reality that capital punishment is most often reserved for those at the margins of society. Until recently, the focus of criticism was largely on state capital punishment systems. Now, however, serious questions regarding the fairness of the administration of the federal death penalty are squarely before you.

We commend your forthright decision in August to grant Mr. Garza a reprieve until December 12, 2000, so that he would have the opportunity to seek clemency under new federal guidelines. Shortly before you ordered the reprieve, you spoke of your concern about the “disturbing racial composition” of federal death row and about evidence that a handful of federal districts have accounted for more than half of the cases in which federal capital prosecution has been sought. When the Department of Justice released a survey of the federal death penalty in September, White House spokesperson Jake Siewart confirmed your view that “these numbers are troubling,” and that more information must be gathered to determine “more about how the system works and what’s behind those numbers,” including “why minorities in some geographic districts are disproportionately represented.” We believe that even Americans who support capital punishment will agree that no federal execution should proceed until these questions are answered and the nation is assured that the federal death penalty is neither biased nor arbitrary in its application.

During your remarks at the Democratic National Convention, you spoke with admiration and appreciation of President Carter’s enduring contribution to advancing human rights around the globe. Our Ambassador to France, Felix Rohatyn, has written that the continued imposition of the death penalty “casts a shadow” on our country’s image as the flagship of freedom and democracy. And, President Carter and Mrs. Carter have now urged you to grant clemency to Mr. Garza and expressed their support for a moratorium on federal executions. We are confident that your decision to declare a moratorium – an act of courage and leadership -- would be respected by the nation and by our allies.

In closing, there is strong evidence that Americans are troubled that capital punishment is not administered equitably or impartially, and there is now growing support for a moratorium on executions. To execute Mr. Garza at a time of such ferment and debate is to act precipitously. A declaration of an executive moratorium and a grant of clemency for Mr. Garza will acknowledge the legitimacy of the reservations that are on the minds and in the hearts of so many and assure the country that an investigation into questions surrounding the federal death penalty will continue until satisfactory answers are found.

We urge you to embrace this legacy.


C. Naseer Ahmad
Human Rights Committee, Ahmaddiyya Movement of Islam

Randall S. Best
President, North Carolina Society for Ethical Culture

Herbert Blinder
Director of the Washington Ethical Action Office, American Ethical Union

Monsignor Eugene J. Boyle
Diocese of San Jose

Rev. Amos C. Brown
Third Baptist Church, Inc., San Francisco

The Rev. Dr. John A. Buehrens
President, Unitarian Universalist Assn. of Congregations

Lisel Burns
Senior Leader, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture

Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell

Rev. Paul Chaffee
Interfaith Center of the Presidio, San Francisco

The Rev. Jerrye Champion
National President, Church Women United

Pat Clark
American Friends Service Committee National Representative for Criminal Justice

Joseph P. Daoust, S.J.
President, Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley

Rev. Michael J. Dodd
Director, Columban Fathers Justice and Peace Office

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

Dr. Bob Edgar
General Secretary, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.

Rev. Elizabeth Ekdale
St. Marks Lutheran Church, San Francisco

Rabbi Jerome Epstein
President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Father Joe Fahy

Kathleen Foy
Leader, American Ethical Union

Dr. Michael S. Franch
Member, National Leaders Council of the American Ethical Union; Affiliate Minister, First Unitarian Church, Baltimore, Md.

The Rev. Cannon Charles P. Gibbs
Executive Director, United Religions Initiative

Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary, The Reformed Church in America

Rabbi Irving Greenberg
President, Jewish Life Network

Joseph K. Grieboski
President, Institute on Religion and Public Policy, Inc.

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church, USA

Rev. Margot Campbell Gross
First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco

Howard Hallman
Chairman, Methodists United for Peace with Justice

The Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada

Tiffany Heath
Interim Legislative Director, Church Women United Washington D.C. Office

Susannah Heschel
Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College

Charles Horwitz
Former President, Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture

Dr. Kathleen S. Hurty
Executive Director - Church Women United

R. Burke Johnson
President, Moravian Church-Northern Province

Florence C. Kimball
Legislative Education Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation (Quaker)

Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church U.S.A.

Rabbi Charles Kroloff
President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Vernon H. Kurtz
President, The Rabbinical Assembly

Archbishop Nicholas Lambrou
Archbishop-Primate, Autocephalous Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, Archdiocese of the Americas

Senior Bishop Nathaniel Lindsey
CEO, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Rev. John Lo Schiavo, S.J.
Chancellor, University of San Francisco

John N. Marsh
Minister, First Unitarian Universalist Church, San Francisco

James C. McCloskey
Founder & Director, Centurion Ministries, Incorporated

William McKinney
President, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley CA

Frank McNeirney
National Coordinator, Catholics Against Capital Punishment

Rabbi Paul J. Menitoff
Executive Vice President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Dr. Randolph Nugent
General Secretary, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church

Sister Helen Prejean

John D. Paarlberg
Minister for Social Witness and Worship, Reformed Church in America

Jean Rabenold
President, Unitarian Universalists for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

The Very Rev. William W. Rankin
President and CEO, Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance

Rev. Judy Mills Reimer
Executive Director, Church of the Brethren, General Board

The Rev. Meg A. Riley
Director, Washington Office for Faith in Action of the Unitarian Universalist Assn. of Congregations

Rev. Dr. Robert H. Roberts
Interim General Secretary, American Baptist Churches U.S.A.

Jack Rosen
President, American Jewish Congress

Rev. Peter Ruggere
Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

Rev. Keith A. Russell
President, American Baptist Seminary of the West

Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rita R. Semel
Executive Vice Chair, San Francisco Interfaith Council

Rev. Melodee Smith
Clergy Coalition to End Executions

Rev. Don Southworth
First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco

Rev. Laird J. Stuart
Calvary Presbyterian Church, San Francisco

Douglas Sturm
Co-chair, Community Alliance for Respect & Equality

Rt. Rev. William E. Swing
Bishop of California, Episcopal Church

Susan Teshu
Leader, American Ethical Union

Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Bishop James C. Timlin
Diocese of Scranton

Rev. Dominic Totaro, S.J.
Director, Jesuit Centre

Rev. Jim Wallis
Editor-in Chief, Sojourners

Rev. Ashlee Wiest-Laird
Associate Pastor, Seattle First Baptist Church

Charles B. Wilson, MD, MSHA
Director, Institute for the Future

Dr. James E. Winkler
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church

Bart Worden
Leader, Westchester Ethical Society

Harmon L. Wray
Executive Director, Restorative Justice Ministries, The United Methodist Church

Rabbi Eric Yoffie
President, Union of American Hebrew Congregations

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