Pope has influenced Obama's attitude on death penalty

Pope has influenced Obama's attitude on death penalty
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Pope FrancisPope FrancisOvernight Energy: Measure would force EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in water | Emails show Trump official consulted climate deniers | Democrats urge Puerto Rico to reject debt deal for power company Overnight Energy: Measure would force EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in water | Emails show Trump official consulted climate deniers | Democrats urge Puerto Rico to reject debt deal for power company Pope Francis warns oil and gas execs on climate change MORE’s appeal to end the death penalty has “influenced” President Obama’s thinking on the issue, the White House said Thursday. 

In a speech to Congress, Francis reiterated his call to abolish the death penalty across the globe, saying it violates mankind’s “responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”

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“It’s fair to say the president’s views are influenced by statements that are made by the pope,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. 

But Earnest stressed that Obama, who watched at least part of Francis’s speech, is not ready to change his position on the issue. 

Francis’s U.S. tour has revived the debate over the death penalty, one of the most polarizing elements of the American justice system. 

Obama backs the death penalty but has raised concerns in the past with how it is applied. After a botched execution in Oklahoma last year, the president ordered a review by the Justice Department.

“In the context of answering this question in the past, the president has noted his concerns with the way that the death penalty has been applied,” Earnest said. 

Obama has also expressed worry about racial disparities and situations where death row inmates have been exonerated after further evidence proved them innocent. 

“Certainly, those kinds of results are troubling,” Earnest said. 

The debate over the death penalty comes as Obama is pushing Congress to pass a sweeping set of criminal-justice reforms. 

Lawmakers are considering a number of bills that would reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Abolishing the federal death penalty would be a heavy lift in Congress.