Religion and the Death Penalty

Speech delivered at Harvard Law School, September 17, 2004; reprinted in Democracy and the Constitution: Landmarks of Contemporary Political Thought (AEI Press, 2006).


The best case for the death penalty—or, at least, the best explanation of it—was made, paradoxically, by one of the most famous of its opponents, Albert Camus, the French novelist, playwright, and World War II Resistance hero. Others complained of the alleged unusual cruelty of the death penalty, or insisted that it was not, as claimed, a better deterrent of murder than, say, life imprisonment, and Americans especially complained of the manner in which it was imposed by judge or jury (discriminatorily or capriciously, for example), and sometimes on the innocent.

American Enterprise Institute