NEW ORLEANS -- The Southern Christian Leadership Congress wants a moratorium on the death penalty until an acceptable alternative is found, says the president of the civil rights organization.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery spoke Wednesday at the New Zion Baptist Church in New Orleans, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others founded the group 30 years ago.

"When they call it capital punishment, that's true. If you don't have the capital, you'll get the punishment," Lowery said.

"Our disregard for sacredness of human life has led us to an assault on the poor," Lowery said. "And it seems Louisiana is racing with Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Texas to see who will kill more people to stop people from killing more."

Lowery also urged blacks to vote and to exercise more sophisticated discretion in selecting candidates.

"If you know people in your community who haven't registered to vote, hold a prayer meeting on their lawns if you have to," Lowery said. "If they go to work at 5, wake them up at midnight and tell them to register to vote. You ladies, don't cuddle up to your husband on a cold winter night if he hasn't registered to vote."

Lowery said blacks must no longer vote a straight-party ticket.

"We must no longer be wedded to a party. I know it's hard with what the Republicans have been doing lately," Lowery said.

Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.), SCLC board chairman, said confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork must be blocked.

Fauntroy said Bork is a threat because he opposes the one-man, one-vote principle. He accused Bork of opposing civil rights gains, particularly the 1964 Voting Rights Act.