The Constitution of the United States empowers the president of the United States to curtail or eliminate punishment for actual or possible federal criminal wrongdoing by issuing pardons. As the quotes that begin this chapter suggest, the nature of a presidential pardon is subject to dispute. A pardon can be thought to be an act of grace or an extension of the president's executive power to administer the criminal justice system, or something in between. This chapter does not resolve the issue, but considers the nature of the pardon power while considering whether or how the president can or should exercise spiritual leadership through the use of the pardon power. The pardon power, with its focus on punishment, provides the president the opportunity to exercise spiritual leadership where law, punishment, forgiveness, mercy, and justice meet.

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