Thank you to all who attended and participated in the "Call for Reckoning" conference on January 25, 2002. Over 500 people from around the country filled the Divinity School's lecture hall and several overflow rooms to hear the speakers reflect on religion and the death penalty. Provocative questions and profound reflections were offered by attendees and speakers alike throughout the day.
In keeping with the mission of The Pew Forum—to not only provide a forum for deliberation on religion and public life, but also to serve as a clearinghouse for scholarship in this area—we offer the following post-conference resources:
- Transcripts of the conference and of Governor Ryan's address have been posted in the Resources section of this site.
- An electronic version of the Conference Reader is available online in the Resources section of this site. (N.B. Some articles from the print edition are not available online.) We regret that printed copies of the Reader are no longer available.
- A book on the subject is now available. Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning contains revised essays from conference speakers and additional essays from other distinguished scholars and practitioners pf politics, religion and law. You can learn more about (or buy) the book at the Eerdmans web site, Amazon.com, and other booksellers nationwide.
- Media coverage of the conference was published/broadcast by Chicago Tribune, UPI Newswire, Religion News Service, Fox News and the Chicago Maroon.
- The radio broadcast of the January 24 edition of "Odyssey" is available online, on demand, from Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ. The show's guests were conference speakers J. Budziszewski and David Novak, as well as Thomas Geraghty, Professor of Law and Director of the Legal Clinic at Northwestern University. Listen to the broadcast.
- The radio broadcast of portions of Beth Wilkinson's speech at the conference is also available online. It originally aired on Chicago Public Radio's program "Eight Forty-Eight" on January 29. Listen to the broadcast.
- Other resources on the issue — including a bibliography and a filmography — are also available in the Resources section of this site.
At a time of heightened controversy surrounding the death penalty, most discourse relies upon the political, philosophical, and legal dimensions of the practice, and its racial and social implications. Quite often in this debate, religious traditions and theological perspectives are not fully explored beyond an occasional reference to "an eye for an eye" or calls for mercy and forgiveness. Religious voices, however, provide unique standpoints and important reflective dimensions that illuminate these political and other accounts of capital punishment.
This conference brought together scholars of various faiths and religious backgrounds from the fields of politics, religion, and law to take up a broad range of views on the death penalty. Special attention was given to the following guiding questions:
- What resources does religion-including religious beliefs, traditions, and institutions-provide in shaping current views about the death penalty?
- In what ways do faith traditions and theological ideas shape how justice is conceived of and meted out? How do positions both for and against the death penalty draw upon various theological understandings of justice? Are these political and religious accounts of justice ultimately reconcilable?
- What role ought religious beliefs play in a pluralistic democratic society that often presumes strict boundaries between matters of private faith and political life? How might citizens, jurors, neighbors and people of faith draw upon religious ideas in carrying out their civic responsibilities?
With a discussion of these questions in hand, this symposium grappled with the relationship between religion and public life as it pertains to what is often called the "ultimate punishment."