The morality of capital punishment is a matter about which people of faith disagree. We, the undersigned, do not necessarily share the same views about the death penalty. Some of us oppose capital punishment; others of us do not. But what unites us, and the reason we are moved to issue this joint statement, is that we all believe that, in the United States of America, individuals ought not to be discriminated against based on their religious affiliation.
In the case of Christopher Young, who is now on death row in Texas, a potential juror was removed from the case based on her membership in a particular church and her association with one of its ministries. This removal was wrong. Membership in a particular church or association with a particular ministry is not a fair basis for preventing someone from carrying out her civic duty as a juror. Indeed, eliminating a particular juror based solely on her religious affiliation offends the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution.
We are not expressing an opinion as to whether Christopher Young deserves to suffer the death penalty as a consequence of the crime he committed. We do believe, however, that the process by which he was sentenced to death was tainted by the decision of the government to strike a juror, not because of her personal beliefs, but solely because she was affiliated with a ministry that works to improve the lives of the poor, the elderly, and the incarcerated. Indeed, the government struck this juror even though she did not personally work with prisoners; she was removed, in short, because of her mere association with a church that pursued its mission of aiding the weak.
We call on the State of Texas to disavow this discrimination on the basis of religious affiliation, and to give Mr. Young a new trial untainted by discrimination against jurors of faith.