Is capital punishment acceptable in the Baha'i Faith
Is capital punishment acceptable; if so, for what offenses?
As an act of justice, capital punishment for murder is permitted, though life imprisonment is an acceptable alternative: "The law of Bahá'u'lláh prescribes the death penalty for murder and arson, with the alternative of life imprisonment." (Anonymous: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, note 86, page 203-204).
The reason for such punishment must be understood to be corrective, not retributive. It is understood to have a cathartic result on the soul of the criminal and in taking away his life he will not have to pay for his crime in the next world. The above note continues:
In His Tablets Abdu'l-Bahá explains the difference between revenge and punishment. He affirms that individuals do not have the right to take revenge, that revenge is despised in the eyes of God, and that the motive for punishment is not vengeance, but the imposition of a penalty for the committed offence. In Some Answered Questions, He confirms that it is the right of society to impose punishments on criminals for the purpose of protecting its members and defending its existence." ibid.
Having said this, capital punishment will only be enforced in a future Bahá'í society when humanity has "reached a much higher point of evolution," not in the society that we are living in now. It cannot be said in advance how a future Bahá'í society will apply which punishments to which types of offenses:
The details of the Bahá'í law of punishment for murder and arson, a law designed for a future state of society, were not specified by Bahá'u'lláh. The various details of the law, such as degrees of offence, whether extenuating circumstances are to be taken into account, and which of the two prescribed punishments is to be the norm are left to the Universal House of Justice to decide in light of prevailing conditions when the law is to be in operation. The manner in which the punishment is to be carried out is also left to the Universal House of Justice to decide. ibid.
Finally, arson in the above is not necessarily meant as an offense resulting in capital punishment:
In relation to arson, this depends on what "house" is burned. There is obviously a tremendous difference in the degree of offence between the person who burns down an empty warehouse and one who sets fire to a school full of children. ibid.