Torture -- It's time to resist
Reports and resources beginning with November, 2008
Reports and resources from January
through October, 2008
torture from October 2006 through December 2007 >>
Postings on torture from March
through September, 2006 >>
Posts on torture from November '05 through February 06 >>
For earlier postings on torture,
from June through October 2005 >>
It's time to say No to Torture
Torture has been historically unacceptable, so what's changed?
Philip Gates, of Prescott,
Arizona, is a retired public-school superintendent and a member of
the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. He has been deeply
involved in the effort to close the School of the Americas –
otherwise known to some as a school of torturers.
He was arrested in the
November, 2006 protest against the SOA, and in 2007 he served
time in prison for the crime of opposing torture.
As 9/11 approached, with its reminders of how the
U.S. became so deeply hooked on torture, he wrote a short,
thoughtful article on how torture, which had been for so long
considered unacceptable, suddenly became “OK.” He urges us to join
with the many religious groups supporting the National Religious
Campaign Against Torture, to call for a national Commission of
Inquiry composed of unbiased, experienced jurists equipped with
subpoena powers, to be appointed by President Barack Obama.
His essay was published on Sept. 6 in the Arizona Republic.
Resources for Torture Awareness Month – which is coming in
from the National Religious Campaign Against
Torture, sent on April 14, 2011
We are pleased to announce that NRCAT has
developed these additional resources for congregations to use
for education and advocacy:
You’ll find more information about these and other resources on
Torture Awareness Month webpage.
Please use this
brief form to tell us about your plans and how we can better
support your local efforts during June.
Thank you for helping to raise awareness of
this important issue in your congregation and community.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
Questions? Please email
Campaign Against Torture
Elect to End Torture: Vote Scorecards!
the National Religious
Campaign Against Torture Action Fund
In the 2010 election we face a stark choice
between electing an anti-torture Congress and electing a
Congress that might repeat the mistakes of the past and again
make torture a part of U.S. interrogations. You can make the
difference in this election by taking the opportunity to educate
your friends, family, and community about the issue of torture
and your candidates’ stances on torture.
The NRCAT Action Fund has produced two
Congressional Vote Scorecards (one
for the Senate and
one for the House ) that rate every current Member of
Congress on their votes with respect to torture. Please look up
your Members of Congress and share information about their
voting records on torture with your friends and family.
You can also educate your community about
their Members' of Congress record on torture by writing a letter
to the editor. On the NRCAT Action Fund website we have
advice for writing a letter to the editor about your
incumbent Members’ of Congress positions on torture. Writing a
letter to the editor is a great way to educate your community
and to encourage them to vote for an anti-torture Congress.
The religious case
against torture [7-23-10]
Judge Jay Bybee, former head of the Office of
Legal Counsel (OLC) of the Department of Justice under President
George W. Bush, acknowledged in testimony to the House Judiciary
Committee on May 26 that the CIA used torture methods that
violated the list of techniques that the OLC had approved. The
OLC had approved types of torture including waterboarding and
others, but the CIA went beyond those very generous limits, to
hang detainees from ceiling hooks, keep them in extended
isolation, and subject them to daily beatings.
The Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian
minister who is the Executive Director of the National Religious
Campaign Against Torture, considers the arguments that have been
put forward to defend such actions, but asserts that he knows of
no faith group that agrees with them. He gives four basic
reasons: Torture violates human dignity. It often fails to
produce “actionable intelligence.” It is against U.S. law. And
it increases terrorism.
He then indicates very briefly how three of
the main criteria for a “just war” would clearly rule out the
use of torture.
Click here for the full text of this good, very brief
statement of a faith-based rejection of torture.
Cowardice Among 'Christian' Leaders:
Why the churches are
largely mum on torture
Ray McGovern, a
former CIA analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence
Professionals for Sanity, explores the ways in which Christian
churches seem to be “riding shotgun for the system, even regarding
heinous sin like torture.” This appears through a recent Pew
Research Center survey, which showed that a majority (54%) of white
non-Hispanic Catholics, white Evangelicals, and white mainline
Protestants who attend church regularly “said torture could be
‘justified,’ while a majority of those not attending church
regularly responded that torture was rarely or never justified.”
fairly long essay, but well worth reading >>
|An urgent late
Please call your Senators
and tell them to vote against S.A.
1559, [which would PERMANENTLY prevent the President from
transferring any detainee from Gitmo FOR ANY PURPOSE, whether to
stand trial in a US court or to be housed at another facility].
Remind them that the abuses that occurred in the prison in
Guantanamo shamed our nation and you hope that they will not stand
in the way of closing that prison.
Voting against this
amendment will make it possible to close Guantanamo.
More from the
National Religious Campaign
Against Torture >>
The National Religious Campaign Against
Torture invites you —
A RELIGIOUS PUBLIC WITNESS IN
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Noon - 1:30 PM
NRCAT is sponsoring a major event led by seven
heads of faith groups and other senior religious leaders in front of
the White House at noon on Thursday, June 11, to urge President
Obama to create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate U.S torture
practices since 9/11. Our goal is to have 1,000 people of faith join
us. We need your help make that happen.
In his speech on Guantanamo and torture last week,
the President reiterated his opposition to appointing such a
commission. We are disappointed and believe he is wrong. By making
our position visible, we seek to change his mind.
Discovering the truth makes us free, holds people
accountable, and can bring healing and transformation. The results
of the investigation will also make it possible for the Congress to
put the needed safeguards in place to assure that U.S.-sponsored
torture never takes place again.
The list of confirmed senior national religious
leaders who will provide leadership during the witness at the White
House on June 11, other details about the event and promotional
all available here.
Torture Is A
Panel & Conference for People of Faith
Palo Alto, California
From Carol Wickersham, of Presbyterian-related
Please help spread the word about the Torture Is a
Moral Issue panel and conference on June 26-27. Speakers and
workshops will equip participants for effective action. Perspectives
will be offered by former interrogators and intelligence officers,
psychologists, ethicists, legal experts. I will offer some religious
This just in
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons joins call for
review of post-9/11 interrogations
Letter to President Obama urges non-partisan
Commission of Inquiry
by Mark Koenig, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program,
and Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service
Louisville – April 30, 2009 – Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons joined church
leaders and human rights activists calling President Obama to create
a Commission of Inquiry to review interrogation policies and
practices of the United States in the years after Sept. 11, 2001.
"The God who made us all, is also the God to whom
we are all answerable for how we treat each of God's children,"
Parsons wrote in
his April 23 letter.
The letter specifically asks the president "to
work with Congress to establish a non-partisan Commission of
Inquiry" to conduct the review of Bush Administration interrogation
policies and practices. It was delivered to President Obama and U.S.
Parsons based his call on an action of the 217th
General Assembly (2006) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in
response to an overture from San Francisco Presbytery. The Assembly
called on Congress to "convene an investigative body with the
independence, stature, and broad investigative powers of the
September 11th Commission to inquire into whether any official or
officer of the United States government bears direct or command
responsibility for having ordered or participated in violations of
law in the mistreatment of persons detained by the government of the
United States at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib Prison, or elsewhere or
in transporting persons into detention in nations with known records
of brutality and torture; to publish its findings and, if
appropriate, to recommend the appointment of a special prosecutor if
one has not been previously appointed."
Parsons acknowledged that the Executive Order to
Ensure Legal Interrogations issued by President Obama is "an
important step in preventing the use of torture against individuals
in the custody of the United States in the future."
|If you’ve been
saying “No to torture!” ...
is the time to speak out and be heard
President Obama has recently announced that he is
open to the possibility of investigation and perhaps prosecution of
Bush Administration members who provided the claimed legal
justification for the use of torture. That is an apparent shift from
his earlier insistence that the U.S. needs to look forward, and not
fret over the past.
He has made this shift, he acknowledges, because
of pressure from those who are calling not only for an end to
torture, but also for holding accountable the perpetrators and
(especially) those in authority who ordered and justified the use of
torture. But the pressure must continue, especially as voices on the
Right rail against such a move.
The Rev. Carol Wickersham, Coordinator of the
This means that
now is the time to redouble our prayers and our pressure. Please
let the White House and Congress know that this is what we want:
an investigation and accountability. We must make it clear that
we want both: truth and justice. In order to achieve this, any
investigation must be nonpartisan, authoritative, investigation
of all who were involved in drafting the memos and giving the
orders up the chain of command. This is what the Presbyterian
Church has been asking for since the 2006 General Assembly. [Click
here for the full text of the 2006 GA statement (in PDF
The Rev. John Shuck has gone into more detail
blog page, summarizing the call by the National Religious
Campaign Against Torture for an end to U.S.-sponsored torture. The
NRCAT statement says:
During 2008, the
religious community advocated for a Presidential Executive Order
ending torture. It happened. On January 22, President Obama
issued an Executive Order halting torture. Now the task is to
make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again.
To accomplish this
goal, our nation needs to put safeguards in place to prevent its
recurrence. We will better understand what safeguards are needed
if we have a comprehensive understanding of what happened – who
was tortured, why they were tortured, and who ordered the
torture. As a nation we need the answers to those questions.
Therefore, NRCAT is calling for a Commission of Inquiry to
investigate U.S. torture policies and practices.
To bolster this
call, we are asking you and other people of faith to endorse the
"U.S.-Sponsored Torture: A Call for a Commission of Inquiry."
NRCAT is also
asking religious institutions and organizations to endorse, as
of war crimes is imperative
director of Consumers for Peace.org, has a strong statement on
Truthout.org, on why it is imperative that there be some prosecution
of U.S. war crimes. He writes:
Barack Obama is not given the right by our Constitution to be the
judge and jury for torturers. I include Bush and Cheney in this
category although they committed other war crimes. Mr. Obama and our
Congress took oaths to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the
land. They must be reminded that they must do this job regardless of
whether they think it is divisive or not. If President Obama and the
Congress do their jobs of enforcing the law with respect to torture
and other Bush and Cheney war crimes, they will begin unraveling the
web of deceit that has supported the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
|NRCAT – the National Religious Coalition Against
Torture – seeks more support for a Commission of Inquiry into
U.S.-sponsored use of torture
Here is their latest communication to their
members, including a number of helpful links for information and
Thank you to everyone who has endorsed the
statement "U.S.-sponsored Torture: A Call for a Commission of
Inquiry" and to those who are collecting endorsements from others.
NRCAT is calling for a Commission of Inquiry (COI) so that our
nation can learn the complete facts about U.S.-sponsored torture
since 9/11 and thereby build a national consensus to assure that our
country will never use torture again.
Getting a Commission of Inquiry is proving to be a challenging
task. Many Members of Congress do not support it, and at this point
Senator Leahy, one of the strongest advocates for it in the Senate,
is unable to find a Republican cosponsor. We have our work cut out
for us. So far, we have more than 2200 endorsers of our statement
(after about a month). Here's what we can do to strengthen our
- If you have not yet endorsed, please
click here to endorse
online. We need to grow the number of people of faith endorsing
quickly in order to maximize the effectiveness of our call for a
Commission of Inquiry. We also urge you to
click here for a
petition version of the statement for a COI. Please take the
petition to your congregation or religious community and ask
people to endorse.
- NRCAT is also eager to encourage national and
regional faith group bodies, ecumenical and interfaith
organizations, congregations and other religious organizations
to consider endorsing the COI.
Click here for a page that includes: a model resolution that
you might suggest that your religious organization use, the list
of religious organizations endorsing to date and a form for
reporting that your religious organization has endorsed.
Click here for a page
of resources and suggestions for promoting the Commission of
Inquiry. The page also includes a link to a letter to Eric
Holder and NRCAT's statement calling on the Department of
Justice to investigate for criminal culpability.
- June is Torture Awareness Month. NRCAT is
urging people of faith to encourage their congregations to
incorporate the concern about torture into worship, to study the
issue using a new DVD resource prepared by NRCAT and to consider
displaying a banner. We are also encouraging delegations of
people of faith across the country to visit their Members of
Congress at the end of June.
Click here to learn more about these opportunities. We will
be updating the web site page on Torture Awareness Month during
the next two months and we will send an email to you with more
suggestions for using Torture Awareness month in mid-April.
We still have
much to do this year, but thank you for everything you have done
to end U.S.-sponsored torture. It has made a difference.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
|U.S. use of torture is still an issue!
sweep unlawful activities under the table"
Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to
Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture
Mark Benjamin, writing for Salon.com, opens his
President Obama vowed that "the United States
will not torture" only two days into his new administration. But
one big question Obama hasn't answered is whether and how to
investigate notorious Bush-era interrogation and detention
policies. On Thursday, 18 human rights organizations, former
State Department officials and former law enforcement and
military leaders asked the president to create a nonpartisan
commission to investigate those allegedly abusive detention
Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, who
investigated the famed abuses at Abu Ghraib, signed on to the
effort. He explained his support in an interview with Salon.
Taguba agrees with many attorneys who think it would be
difficult, and perhaps impossible, to prosecute former Bush
administration officials. A nonpartisan fact-finding commission,
however, might provide some degree of accountability for
official U.S. detention and interrogation policies that Taguba
called misguided and illegal.
We have a lot of unanswered questions on
accountability, questions that need to be answered and hold
responsible officials -- civilians and military -- accountable.
These include contractors. We ought not to refer to
accountability as a bumper sticker or to be used loosely. We
have an integrity issue to contend with if we are to prevent
this matter from recurring.
full article >>
National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) suggests this
Tell President Obama to end Bush Administration Secrecy!
An important legal
case being argued in a United States Court of Appeals concerns
allegations of torture by five victims of the Bush Administration’s
extraordinary rendition program. Unfortunately, last week, the
Department of Justice affirmed the “state secrets” argument used by
the previous Administration to bar crucial evidence from the
You can read more
about the case in this
Andrew Sullivan piece and this
by legal scholar Scott Horton.
President Obama and Attorney General Holder and ask them to uphold
President Obama’s commitment to transparency.
Click here for a sample email for your use, created by NRCAT.
Please feel free to personalize it before sending it – personalized
messages receive more attention.
|Lenten resources are offered to help people
reflect on torture [2-12-09]
No2Torture and the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
have worked together to prepare resources for Lent, with a focus on
the continuing concern for torture. These have been prepared through
the partnership and courtesy of singer/songwriters Tom Zehnder and
Tim Gibbs Zehnder.
There are reflections and sermon notes by the Rev.
Kirsten Klepfer, which are
posted on the No2Torture page >>
of No2Torture describes this resource: “The work is deep and
solid and should help connect the considerations of torture to
larger issues of violence. It is rooted in study of this year's
lectionary passages and theological considerations of atonement.
It is short, relevant and accessible so preachers and lay
leaders can readily use it."
On the Peacemaking
Program's page there are prayers and a devotional reflection by
Elsbeth Pollack, a student at Beloit College.
Click here >>
Finally, Tim and Tom
offer the free use of their song "Breathe In, Breathe Out" in mp3
format and as the lyrics.
Click here for the details >>
During this Lent, as
we prepare to celebrate again the events of Holy Week – the arrest,
torture, and execution of Jesus – and God's response of resurrection
– may these resources sustain and challenge us in our efforts to
stop the use of torture.
The Rev. W. Mark
Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
(888) 728-7228 ext. 5936 (toll-free)
|It's time for a
Truth Commission on torture
Rights First seeks a truth commission on torture from
Torin Nelson, a professional interrogator who just returned
from Afghanistan. We hope you will join him and Human Rights
First in calling for a truth commission.
The group Human Rights First is distributing
this note from Torin Nelson, a professional interrogator who
just returned from Afghanistan. They urge you to join him and
Human Rights First in calling for a truth commission.
It's Time for a Truth Commission
by Torin Nelson
|Do You Want the Truth on Torture?
Join our Facebook group in support of creating a
truth commission to investigate torture.
Last night, in his first White House primetime
press conference, President Obama was asked about establishing a
truth commission on torture. In responding, President Obama affirmed
his commitment to end torture but he said that the best way to do so
was only by "looking forward."
Though I have a great deal of respect for the
actions the President took to close Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA
detention facilities, I believe we need to fully investigate what
went wrong in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in order to ensure
that these sorts of abuses do not take place again.
With Human Rights First, I have started a group on
Facebook to show support for creating a truth commission to
investigate torture. If you have a Facebook account,
A truth commission can get to the bottom of
questions that linger in the public debate such as:
* How useful have so-called "enhanced"
interrogation techniques been to U.S. forces?
* What have the costs been in strategic terms
to the U.S. due to the use of these techniques?
* What policies and procedures were changed to
allow for the use of torture?
To date, the United States has not conducted a
full investigation into the use of torture by U.S. forces and
security agencies. No one has stepped back to try and see the full
picture, and to calculate the losses — in moral authority and
American lives — of our national detour to the dark side.
Investigations have been conducted within
agencies, rather than across them. Many have been hampered by a lack
of authority and a lack of credibility. If we are truly going to fix
this problem, we first need to have a full understanding of what
If the commission were able to do its work
effectively, and present its findings publicly, it could effectively
end the debate over the use of torture in this country.
We established a Facebook group to provide a place
where people can show support for a truth commission on torture. We
also believe that the page will provide a chance for individuals to
post their views on why this commission will — or might not — be in
the best interests of the country. Please join the group and feel
free to post a comment.
Right now the country is divided over the use of
abusive interrogation techniques. Support for torture lingers. And
some believe, as former Vice President Dick Cheney recently warned,
that a future terror attack on America will be President Obama's
"responsibility" because he took action to end some of President
Bush's detention and interrogation policies.
In determining how "effective" torture may have
been, the commission will have to also consider the strategic
consequences of employing techniques that are, to quote Senator John
McCain, "un-American." It ought to be possible to conduct a
sophisticated cost-benefit analysis that examines the unintended
consequences related to our actions. We know, for example, that Abu
Ghraib was a boon to Al Qaeda recruiting. How much does the use of
these "tools" undermine our efforts?
In order for this commission to be successful it
must be made up of members with unimpeachable integrity who do not
have a point to prove. It also must be armed with subpoena power.
This commission must have the power — and the political will — to
follow this story wherever it goes.
This is too important to leave half-finished.
Though the President has taken action that will make us safer,
questions linger that need to be answered.
Our country's greatness is supported by our
willingness to take a serious and thorough look at our mistakes.
While it may be unpleasant, not doing so would compound the error,
and increase the chances that it will be repeated. If we do not take
action the public debate over the use of these techniques will
continue to surface. Our allies and our enemies will see us as a
hypocritical nation that only lives up to its ideals when it is
convenient. And future generations will look back and wonder why we
looked the mistakes of the past square in the eye and blinked.
is the President of the Society for Professional Human Intelligence.
He is a sixteen-year veteran interrogator and Human Intelligence
specialist. Among other locations he has served at Guantanamo Bay,
Abu Ghraib and the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
Sign up for the Human Rights First email list >>
TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE
Religious Campaign Against Torture is sponsoring two important
events in the Washington, DC area in March.
This announcement has come to us from the
Campaign Against Torture
First, NRCAT is a
co-sponsor again of the Ecumenical Advocacy Days which will take
place March 13-16 at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Alexandria,
Virginia, across the river from Washington, DC. It is an
important gathering of Christians who come to DC to lobby on a
variety of issues. Click here to learn more and to register:
Advocacy Days, there will be a workshop called "Next Steps in Ending
U.S.-Sponsored Torture". It will provide an opportunity to talk
about the tasks ahead for the religious community as we work to end
U.S.-sponsored torture once and for all, including advocating for an
independent nonpartisan commission to investigate our torture
policies and practices since Sept. 11, 2001.
The workshop will be
held on Saturday, March 14, 2009, from 3:45 - 5:30 p.m. Speakers
include Scott Horton, a New York attorney known for his work in
human rights law and legal affairs and national security contributor
at Harper's Magazine and Dr. George Hunsinger, founder of
NRCAT and Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.
Second, the Catholic Leadership Council
of NRCAT, the Life Cycle Institute and the Center for International
Social Development of the Catholic University of America will
sponsor a conference on "Torture, Conscience and the Catholic Moral
Tradition" at Catholic University on Thursday, March 19, from 1
p.m. to 9 p.m. It will explore the decisions of conscience by
Catholics in the public square regarding the use of torture. It will
be held in the Moot Court Room of the Columbus School of Law. The
• Josh Casteel,
former U.S. Army interrogator
Colecchi, Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cusimano Love, Associate Professor of International Politics,
Catholic University of America
O'Brien Steinfels, Co-Director of the Center on Religion and
Culture, Fordham University
Anthony Taguba, Chief Investigator of Abu Ghraib
For more information
about this free event and to register for a dinner during the
Richard Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT
Ending US Torture:
A Time for Hope and Healthy Skepticism
Published on January 24,
2009 by CommonDreams.org
George Hunsinger, who
is the McCord Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological
Seminary, and founder of the National Religious Campaign Against
Torture, http://www.nrcat.org/ expresses hope for the steps
President Obama has taken to end the use of torture, to close
Guantánamo, and abolish secret prisons. He writes:
The decision to shut
down Guantanamo is most welcome, yet it is not only lacking in
detail but also allows too much time for its implementation.
Guantanamo should be closed in less than a year. The many men who
can go home should be immediately repatriated. Safe havens must be
found for the others who would face torture or persecution if sent
back. A handful will need to be tried in domestic courts.
Closing the CIA black
sites is also enormously important. Secret prisons have no place in
a democratic society. Their only purpose is to get around the Geneva
conventions and other laws so that torture and abuse can be carried
out. No option should be left open for reviving those sites.
Establishing a single
standard for interrogation, also promulgated in principle, is
essential if torture is to be flushed out of our system.
In short, the new
executive orders are full of promise. They overturn illegal and
immoral tactics in the defense of national security. But they do not
mean that the struggle is over.
Hunsinger deals with
the issue of torture very helpfully in his recent book,
Torture Is a Moral Issue: Christians, Jews, Muslims
and People of Conscience Speak Out.
orders closing of Guantánamo, end of torture
don’t need to tell you again this good news. But there’s more to be
said and done.
The National Religious
Coalition Against Torture wrote to its membership list
This is a moment for
celebration and thanksgiving. We have all prayed and labored
faithfully for this significant step toward ending U.S.-sponsored
Thank you for all your efforts to help reach this
Is there more to do? Yes!
Along with these sweeping changes in policy, the
executive order created a Special Task Force charged with reviewing
the Army Field Manual's interrogation guidelines to determine
whether "different or additional guidance" is necessary for the CIA.
The Task Force has 180 days to report. We need to make sure that any
new interrogation technique that the Special Task Force recommends
abides by the "Golden Rule" (in other words, each new technique must
be both legal and moral if used upon a captured American).
Please email the White House to thank President
Obama for his action today and to urge him to ensure that any
additional interrogation techniques recommended by the Special Task
Force comply with the principle of the "Golden Rule" – that we will
use only those interrogation techniques that would be considered
moral and legal if used upon a captured American.
Click here to email the White House.
In the coming months we will focus on a
legislative agenda to make permanent the elements of this executive
order by codifying them into law. We will also continue working to
secure a nonpartisan investigation that will provide the critical
information necessary to create effective safeguards against the
future use of torture and allow the nation to decide whether to
pursue criminal prosecutions of those involved in authorizing or
implementing policies that led to the use of torture.
Together, we can build on today's victory and
ensure that our grandchildren will be able to say, "Our nation once
engaged in torture, but we don't do that anymore." May it be so.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
Also, the Rev. Carol Wickersham of Presbyterian-based No2 Torture
has written to her organization with thanksgiving, but also a
reminder of the need for continued vigilance.
Click here for her note >>
Executive Orders: Great, Good News!
From Carol Wickersham,
January 22, 2009
Every day since the publication of
the photos from Abu Ghraib I have prayed this prayer: "...(G)ive
light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Guide
our feet in the way of peace." (Luke 1.78-79). It seems today this
prayer has been answered, while not fully at least in substantial
part, by President Obama's executive orders regarding torture.
Because I have learned you are
careful readers, I will separately forward the
actual documents. While we note, that we must continue to be
watchful. There is still work to be done, because there is some
devil in the details (see sections 5 a. and b.) And there is still
the question of meaningful accountability, including possible
prosecution. And there are powerful opponents and critics.
NONETHELESS! today, we have every reason to thank God! "The people
who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a
land of deep darkness--on them light has shone. You have multiplied
the nation, you have increased its joy..."Isaiah 9.2-3a
For me, this moment is filled with
gratitude for all of you who have steadfastly born witness for month
after month when there was no hopeful sign at all. I give thanks for
your passion and practicality, for poems written, research shared,
for conferences organized, posters distributed, op eds and curricula
written, sermons preached, banners hung, congressional visits made.
I personally give thanks for those who have opened their churches,
homes and hearts to me. I have been a part of many movements, but
never one quite so clear and rarely one so effective.
But don't go away! There will still
be work in the days ahead. First, and foremost, I would like to ask
you to write a thank you to President Obama and to any in your
community who have been a part of this work. In this line of work,
thanks can be all too rare. And please let's continue to inform each
other as we live into this new day dawning.
Thank you again.
Carol Wickersham, No2Torture
|Religious leaders meet with
Obama transition team members, urge quick ban on torture
Wickersham of Presbyterian-based
No2Torture shares with us the New York Times' report on
the meeting on Jan. 14 of leaders of the National Religious Campaign
Against Torture, with members of President-elect Obama's transition
team. She adds:
We are finally being heard. Let us join in
prayer with so many around the world that by the grace of God,
torture will soon end, the rule of law will be restored and
healing will begin. ALSO, those with Senators on the
Judiciary Committee should immediately call them and ask
that they press questions about accountability at the
confirmation hearing for the Attorney General which will begin
The Times' story begins:
A broad coalition of religious groups is
calling on President-elect Barack Obama to issue an executive
order on his first day in office banning the use of torture.
Leaders of the coalition, the National
Religious Campaign Against Torture, met with officials from the
Obama transition team on Wednesday afternoon and emerged saying
they were optimistic about the prospects for such an order.
Linda Gustitus, the group’s president, said
the coalition leaders met with Michael Strautmanis, who has been
named chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser.
full news story >>
NRCAT leaders add this suggestion for further action:
Please take a minute
to email President-elect Obama's Transition Team and ask him to end
torture on Day One of his presidency. Just take these three easy
• Visit his
transition website at
• Fill out your
contact information. Write "torture" in the "Another issue" box.
• In the "Your
ideas" box, write something like: "Please issue an Executive Order
ending our use of torture as an interrogation technique on Day One
of your presidency. As a person of faith, I have been deeply
troubled by our country's use of torture as an interrogation
technique. Torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of
detainees is wrong, and it is contrary to American values."
Thank you for your
No2Torture urges ...
Now’s the time to
Write to Pres.-Elect Obama and Congress, calling on them to investigate the practices of torture,
because “Without accountability it is unlikely that the practice of
torture will stop.”
This letter is being widely distributed by the Presbyterian-related
January 12, 2009
nation is at a critical juncture. Unless the next administration
takes immediate and decisive action to reverse course, torture is
likely to become normalized as the way the US does business.
We have been saying
"no! to torture" for almost four years, often speaking to a closed
door but now the door is opening. Now is the time we have been
preparing, praying and waiting for. Now is the time to act. To this
end, I'm sending this unprecedented letter to ask each of you to do
one thing and do it now.
Please raise your
voice and contact 6 specific people within the next week:
your US Senators
a local media
outlet, e.g. a letter to the editor, phone call to a radio
station or an article in a church newsletter;
and finally at
least one member of your local faith or social justice community
to ask them to do the same.
The message is
unchanged: torture is always wrong. However, at this moment the
critical demand is for a non-partisan, authoritative investigation
into policies and practices of U.S. sponsored torture, so that all
those responsible for ordering or inflicting torture will be held
legally accountable. Without accountability it is unlikely that the
practice of torture will stop.
In its action on
"Petitions against Torture," the 217th General Assembly (2006) of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted to issue a call to Congress
for such an investigation. We have been working diligently towards
this goal ever since. This may be the decisive push.
There are other
important and related issues as we seek to stop the use of torture.
Background material is available on the No2Torture (www.no2torture.org)
and National Religious Coalition Against Torture (www.nrcat.org)
To equip ourselves
to speak truth to the powerful and not so powerful, we stand in need
of prayer. To help us find the words, I commend this prayer by the
Rev. Kermit D. Johnson, chaplain and Major General in the U.S. Army
(retired) who has helped to guide our movement from its inception.
Gracious God, in whom
we live and move and have our being, we give thanks for your
presence made known to us in the words, life, death and resurrection
of Jesus, our Savior and Lord.
God of all truth, by
whom all nations are judged and from whom nothing is hidden, we pray
for the courage to face what we have done as a nation and who we
have become as a people.
God of grace, grant
repentance and forgiveness to leaders whose decisions have made
victims of guards, interrogators and prisoners through torture and
of love, grant healing and restoration to all those who suffer the
scars of pain, hatred, guilt, shame and self-recrimination.
God of peace, in whose
outstretched arms we all find welcome, kindle within us the desire
to love our enemies and to find ways to bring this about.
God of hope, heal our
cynicism. Deliver us from adopting the terrorist ethic, that the end
justifies the means. May we not do what we say we condemn.
So, may we do justice
and love mercy, and walk humbly with You, our God, our Strength and
our Redeemer, Amen.
To close, I want to
once again thank the many hundreds of you who have helped to bring
us to this hopeful place. Your prayerful actions and contributions
have helped to create this opportunity. We don't know what lies
ahead for the work of the No2Torture movement. Much depends our next
steps and the response of the new administration, but we have every
reason to believe that God who was tortured on the cross, but not
defeated, will continue to bend the arc of this world toward
justice. And as people of faith, we will continue to witness to
God's grace and work for that day when torture is no more.
|What next for Guantánamo Bay?
professor of law at University College London, writes in The
... President Bush leaves the Obama
administration with some difficult decisions: looking back, how
to address a legacy of abuse, illegality and global disrepute?
Looking forward, what to do with present and future detainees?
Obama needs to say five things on day one, to America and to his
First, he should state that he will not use
the phrase "war on terror", words that tend to legitimise the
struggle of those who seek to harm us.
Second, he should announce that the US will
... no longer use torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment, as defined by international law.
Third, he should declare the closure of
Fourth, he must address what will happen to
the 50 or so detainees who will remain in the US ...
Fifth, he should announce that the US will
honour and underscore its historic commitment to international
efforts against impunity, so that past detainee abuses will not
be forgotten. ...
Religious community holds "National Day of Witness"
Leaders urge president-elect Obama to make executive
order banning torture one of his first official acts
dozens of congregations conduct public witness in front of White House while
more than 50 delegations of religious leaders descend on congressional
offices around the country
A news release from the
National Religious Campaign
WASHINGTON, DC -- 12 Nov 2008 -- On Wednesday, November 12, the National
Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) held a "National Day of Witness
for a Presidential Executive Order to Ban Torture". Participants in the
day's events seek to persuade President-elect Barack Obama to sign an
Executive Order banning torture as one of his first official actions in
office and to urge Members of Congress to establish a Select Committee to
investigate the use of torture since 9/11.
As part of this Day of Witness, more than 50 delegations
of religious leaders, spanning states and districts across the country, held
meetings with their Members of Congress. In addition, representatives from
more than 30 religious institutions participated in a moving procession and
public witness in front of the White House. The participants carried
anti-torture banners that have been displayed outside their places of
worship over the past few months.
"We are thrilled that so many religious leaders and
institutions participated in today's events," said Linda Gustitus, president
of NRCAT. "Collectively, we have sent a powerful message that torture has no
place in U.S. policy. President-elect Obama has a unique opportunity. With
just one stroke of his pen -- by issuing an Executive Order governing the
Executive Branch -- he can end this shameful chapter in our history and
reclaim our moral values."
At the public witness in front of the White House, a
number of religious leaders offered remarks, including Rabbi Gerry Serotta,
Chair of Rabbis for Human Rights.
"Torture as well as other cruel and inhumane treatment
degrades everyone involved: not just victims, but also the perpetrators and
the policymakers," Serotta said. "Rabbis for Human Rights calls for a
complete repudiation and prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or
degrading treatment for any purpose, in any instance. At this moment of hope
we call audaciously for moral leadership that will be welcomed throughout
the world as the U.S. government and our people resume our aspiration to be
'guided through the night with a light from above.'"
During the meetings around the country, religious leaders
are asking Members of Congress to support NRCAT's call for a Select
Committee on Torture to conduct a full investigation into the use of
"enhanced interrogation techniques" by U.S. personnel since 9/11. They are
also asking the Members of Congress to use their influence to urge the newly
elected President to issue an Executive Order when he assumes office in
January to dismantle the torture infrastructure created by the current
After meeting with one such religious delegation last
week, U.S. Representative Rush Holt, Chairman of the Select Intelligence
Oversight Panel, issued a statement this morning in support of the NRCAT
campaign and expressly endorsing the tenets contained in its "Declaration of
"Torture tarnishes our nation's values and damages our
credibility," Holt wrote. "I have worked for years to end our government's
use of torture. While an Executive Order will not remove the need for
legislation on the issue, it is a way for President-elect Obama to put an
immediate halt to our government's use of torture during interrogations and
to put an end to the practice of secret detentions. By exercising his
authority and acting quickly, he will begin to restore our moral leadership
on the issue and repair some of the harm that has been done to our
Today's events were launched in the morning with a
national telephone press conference, where NRCAT leaders were joined by
Rabbi Serotta; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, President, Islamic Society of North
America; Rev. Dr. John Thomas, President and General Minister, United Church
of Christ; and Dr. Stephen Colecchi, Director, Office of International
Justice and Peace, Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"The use of torture by the United States in recent years,
and our refusal to renounce its use, has diminished us as a nation not only
in the eyes of our own citizens, but in the eyes of the world," declared
Rev. Dr. Thomas. "We have squandered the good will bestowed upon us after
9/11, and we have forfeited our role as a moral leader in the community of
nations. There could be no clearer signal of our intention to reclaim the
religious and moral values that have historically informed our nation's
character than for President-elect Barack Obama to make as one of his first
acts the issuing of an Executive Order declaring that 'the use of torture
and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisons is immoral,
unwise, and un-American.'"
"According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
and the Convention Against Torture, we as an international community long
ago established that every person in the world, regardless of their race,
religion or socioeconomic status has the right to be free from torture and
cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," added Dr. Mattson. "As religious
leaders in America, it is our moral obligation to stand up for human rights
and call upon our government to ensure that the United States continues to
uphold the standards set forth by these international treaties and
"Torture is about the rights of victims, but it is also
about who we are as a people," offered Dr. Colecchi. "In a statement on
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, issued in preparation for our
recent national elections, the bishops reminded Catholics that torture is
'intrinsically evil' and 'can never be justified.' There are some things we
must never do. We must never take the lives of innocent people. We must
never torture other human beings."
For more information about the campaign, including a
list of more than 200 religious, military, and government leaders who have
endorsed its "Declaration of Principles," click "Tell the President:
Ban Torture!" at
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is
a growing membership organization committed to ending U.S.-sponsored
torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Since its formation in
January 2006, more than 240 religious groups have joined NRCAT, including
representatives from the Roman Catholic, evangelical Christian, mainline
Protestant, Unitarian, Quaker, Orthodox Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist,
and Sikh communities. Members include national denominations and faith
groups, regional organizations and local congregations.
Questions? Please email
National Religious Campaign Against Torture:
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
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a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens
neighborhood of Ridgewood -- by a progressive New York City
Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon
board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!