Religion and the Death Penalty

A bibliography focusing on religion, the death penalty, and the Tsarnaev Trial compiled collectively by HI/RN 295 Religious Controversies and the Law 

Capital punishment and religion assignment


Bedau, Hugo Adam. The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Blecker, Robert. The Death of Punishment: Searching for Justice Among the Worst of the Worst. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Blesser, John D. Cruel And Unusual: The American Death Penalty and the Founder’s Eighth Amendment. Hanover, NH: Northeastern University Press, 2012.

Lester, David. The Death Penalty: Issues And Answers (Second Edition). Springfield, IL: C.C. Thomas, 1998.

Ogletree, Charles J., and Sarat, Austin, eds. 2012. Life Without Parole : America’s New Death Penalty? New York, NY, USA: New York University Press. (available on ProQuest ebrary)

Santoro, Anthony. Exile and Embrace: Contemporary Religious Discourse on the Death Penalty. Hanover, NH: Northeastern University Press, 2013.

Journal Articles

Bias, Thomas K., Abraham Goldberg, and Tara Hannum. “Catholics and the Death Penalty: Religion as a Filter for Political Beliefs.” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion 7 (2011)(available on ProQuest)

Berg, Thomas C. “Religious Conservatives and the Death Penalty.” The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2000): 31-60.

Chavez, Lyssette H. and Monica K. Miller. “Religious References In Death Sentence Phases Of Trials: Two Psychological Theories That Suggest Judicial Rulings And Assumptions May Affect Jurors.” Lewis & Clark Law Review 13 (2003): 1027-83.

Chester, Britt. “Race, Religion, and Support for the Death Penalty: A Research Note.” Justice Quarterly 15:175-91. (available on HeinOnline)

Cooey, Paula M.  “Women’s Religious Conversions on Death Row: Theorizing Religion and State.”  Journal of the American Academy of Religion 70 (Dec. 2002): 699-717. (available on Jstor)

Davison, Douglas. “God and the Executioner: The Influence of Western Religion on the Use of the Death Penalty.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2001): 137-70.

Drinan, Robert F. “Religious Organizations and the Death Penalty.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2000): 171-78. (available on HeinOnline)

Echols, Micah. “Is the courtroom the right place for religion? Difficulties in restricting religious arguments during the sentencing phase of Pennsylvania death penalty cases: Commonwealth v. Spotz.” University of West Los Angeles Law Review 36 (2005):254-273. (available on Lexis-nexis)

Eisenberg, Theodore , Stephen P. Garvey, and Martin T. Wells. “Forecasting Life and Death: Juror Race, Religion, and Attitude toward the Death Penalty,” The Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 30, No. 2 (June 2001), pp. 277-311. (available on Jstor)

Erskine, Hazel. “The Polls: Capital Punishment.” The Public Opinion Quarterly vol. 34, no. 2 (Summer 1970): 290-307. (available on Jstor)

Garnett, Richard. “Christian Witness, Moral Anthropology, and the Death Penalty (Symposium on Religion in the Public Square).” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy 17(2) (2003): 541-59. (available on HeinOnline)

Grasmick, Harold G., John K. Cochran, Robert J. Bursik Jr., and M’Lou Kimpel. “Religion, Punitive Justice, and Support for the Death Penalty.” Justice Quarterly 10.2 (1993): 289-314. 

Hiers, Richard H. “The death penalty and due process in biblical law.” University of Detroit Mercy Law Review, 81(5) (2004): 751-843.

Levine, Samuel. “Capital Punishments and Religious Arguments: An Intermediate Approach.” William & Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2000).

Loewy, Arnold H. “Religious Neutrality and the Death Penalty (mitigating circumstances) (Symposium: Religion’s Role in the Administration of the Death Penalty).” The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2000): 191-200. (available on HeinOnline)

Megivern, James J. “Capital Punishment: The Curious History of Its Privileged Place in Christendom.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 147 (2003): 3-12. (available on Jstor)

Mathias, Matthew D.  “The Sacralization of the Individual: Human Rights and the Abolition of the Death Penalty.”  American Journal of Sociology 118 (March 2013): 1246-1283. (available on Jstor)

Miller, Monica K. and Brian H. Bornstein. “The Use of Religion in Death Penalty Sentencing Trials.” Law and Human Behavior 30, no. 6 (2006): 675-684.

Miller, Monica K., and R. David Hayward. “Religious Characteristics and the Death Penalty.” Law and Human Behavior 32, no. 2 (2007): 113-23. (available on Jstor)

Schabas, William A. “Islam and the Death Penalty.” The William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 9, no. 1 (2000): 223-36.

Simpson, Gary J and Stephen P. Garvey. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Rethinking the Role of Religion in Death Penalty Cases.” Cornell Law Review vol. 86 (2000-2001): 1090-1130. (available on HeinOnline)

Jeffery T. Ulmer, Christopher Bader and Martha Gault “Do Moral Communities Play a Role in Criminal Sentencing? Evidence from Pennsylvania.” The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 49, No. 4 (Fall, 2008): 737-768. (available on Jstor)

Young, Robert L. “Religious Orientation, Race and Support for the Death Penalty,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1992): 76-87. (available on Jstor)


Berns, Walter. “Religion and the Death Penalty: Can’t have one without the other?” The Weekly Standard. February 8, 2008.

“Bishops say Tsarnaev should not receive death penalty.” Washington Times (AP). April 6, 2015.

Basu, Moni. “‘Dead Man Walking’ Nun: ‘Botched’ Executions Unmask a Botched System.” CNN: Fighting Death: At 75, Nuns Soul Still Stirs For Cause. August 6, 2014.

Berman, Mark. “Why the Death Penalty Is So Crucial to the Boston Marathon Bombing Trial.” Washington Post. January 6, 2015.

Biale, Rachel. “Judaism Casts Doubt on Lethal Injection.” JWeekly, January 18, 2008.

Cullen, Kevin. “Tsarnaev Trial Not about Guilt, but about Punishment.” The Boston Globe. April 8, 2015.

O’Neill, Ann. “The 13th Juror: Showdown in Watertown” March 21, 2015.

Rodriguez, Samuel. “Botched Oklahoma Execution Should Prompt Moral Outcry Among Evangelicals.” Time Magazine, May 5, 2014.

Shetty, Salil. “Humans Do Not Deserve Executions (Opinion)” April 1, 2015.

Santoro, Anthony. “If not Him, then Whom? Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the Death Penalty. The Marginalia Review of Books. April 15, 2014.

Santoro, Anthony. “The ‘Religious Freedom’ Issue that May Cost the Accused Boston Bomber his Life.” Religion Dispatches. January 15, 2015.

Serrano, Richard A. . “Defense’s goal in Boston Marathon bombing trial: Save Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s life.” Los Angeles Times. March 19, 2015.

Shimron, Yonat. “N.C. Muslims Pleased with Death Penalty Option but Want Focus on Hate Crimes Probe.” Washington Post. March 4, 2015.

Other Sources

“Capital Punishment and Christianity.” August 3, 2009.

“Capital Punishment and Islam.” September 16, 2009.

“Capital Punishment and Judaism.” July 21, 2009.

Carroll, Joseph. “Who Supports the Death Penalty?” Gallup, Inc., 16 Nov. 2004.

“The Death Penalty in Jewish Teachings.” Bend the Arc a Jewish Partnership for Justice. October 4, 2012.

Weinstein, Jack B. “Death Penalty: The Torah and Today.” August 23, 2000.

Religious Perspectives

Christian Citizenship – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Mohler Jr., R. Albert. “Why Christians Should Support the Death Penalty.” CNN Belief Blog RSS. May 1, 2014.

Olasky, Marvin.  “Five Religious Views of Capital Punishment.”  World Magazine, October 15, 2013.