leaders implore Bush to end torture
February 28, 2008 – Four faith group leaders are urging President Bush to
change his mind and sign the Intelligence Authorization Act,
which would prohibit the use of torture as an interrogation tool.
The signers represent an unusual consensus of
ecumenical, evangelical, Jewish and Islamic communities.
They are the Rev Dr.
Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Dr. Ingrid Mattson,
president of the Islamic Society of North America; the Rev. Dr. Richard
J. Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; and Rabbi David
Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of
The religious leaders asked to meet with the President before he makes
his decision on his threatened veto of the bill.
"Our scriptures couldn't be clearer
in their condemnation of cruelty and abuse," Kinnamon said. "The
letter we have sent sums it up very succinctly:
torture is an intrinsic evil."
The plea to President Bush was
prompted by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), of
which the NCC is a member.
Congress voted earlier this month to require the Central Intelligence
Agency to abide by the Army Field Manual on interrogations as part of
the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008. The Army Field Manual
prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Among
other things, the Field Manual incorporates the "golden rule" standard.
Interrogators are to engage in no conduct that they would consider
abusive if applied to an American prisoner.
President Bush has said he will veto
the legislation that ends the Central Intelligence Agency's "enhanced
interrogation techniques program," which includes waterboarding and
other torture techniques. The President contends that the CIA needs
"broad latitude" in employing techniques for questioning suspected
But the four religious leaders point
out that "the experience of humanity is clear: once torture has been
permitted, it will spread. It will not be confined to rare cases. It
will be broadly applied, despite all efforts to hold it in check. A
society that embraces torture must inevitably accept moral breakdown as
the outcome of its decision."
The signers ask how an instrument of
defense can be effective "if its use causes us to surrender fundamental
values and degrades our self-understanding as a nation?"
Should President Bush sign the bill,
they said, he will "put an end to our national nightmare over torture.
Let America assume a position on the right side of history, morality and
The full text of the message
Campaign against torture
George W. Bush
The White House
Congress voted to require the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) to abide by the Army Field Manual on interrogations.
The press reports that you may veto this legislation. We
fervently urge you to sign it into law, and we ask that we
have the opportunity to discuss our request with you in
person before you make your decision.
Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008, approved last week
by the Senate that will be sent to you for your signature,
would prohibit cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of
terrorist suspects by applying the prohibition on torture
outlined in the Army Field Manual. Among other things, the
Field Manual incorporates the "golden rule" standard.
Interrogators are to engage in no conduct that they would
consider abusive if applied to an American prisoner.
be more urgent in a democratic society than to uphold the
fundamental values of democracy. No branch of government,
including our intelligence services, can be made an
exception to this rule. "Enhanced" interrogation practices
– like waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, sleep
deprivation and the use of psychotropic drugs – which are
part of the CIA interrogation program, contradict our
democratic values as well as essential principles of
morality and faith.
We know you do
not believe that the CIA program includes acts which amount
to torture, but many in our country and around the world
believe they do. The legislation sent to you on the CIA
interrogation program provides you with an opportunity to
clarify to a doubting world that the United States does not
support or use torture.
Torture is an
intrinsic evil. It exercises a corrosive effect on the very
fabric of our society. It is to be rejected not only for
the profound damage it wreaks upon the victim, but also
because of the damage it inflicts, spiritual and physical,
on those who are called upon to practice it and on the
citizens of the country in whose name it is done. It
contradicts the rule of law which must be a focal virtue for
any society that seeks the security and well-being of its
of humanity is clear: once torture has been permitted, it
will spread. It will not be confined to rare cases. It will
be broadly applied, despite all efforts to hold it in check.
A society that embraces torture must inevitably accept moral
breakdown as the outcome of its decision.
historic answer is aligned with the view of communities of
faith: torture must be repudiated absolutely. There can be
no exceptions to this rule. It is a rule that unites
religious conscience with reason. As religious leaders, we
are committed to protecting the life and dignity of every
debate surrounding torture has focused on narrow questions
of effectiveness. Yet even a test of efficacy must measure
more than supposed short-term benefits, however unlikely
even those may be. It must test how the use of these tools
affects our nation’s reputation in the world abroad. It
must ask whether a reputation for abusive interrogation
undermines alliances upon which our security must rest and
serves as a recruiting tool for the very people who would
harm us. How can an instrument of defense be effective if
its use causes us to surrender fundamental values and
degrades our self-understanding as a nation? The tools we
use must reflect our religious values and most cherished
We urge you,
Mr. President, to sign the Intelligence Authorization Act,
to put an end to our national nightmare over torture, and to
affirm America's position on the right side of history,
morality and faith. We welcome the opportunity to discuss
this matter with you further. Please have your staff
contact Rev. Richard Killmer (202-547-1920 or
firstname.lastname@example.org) to arrange for a meeting. Thank
Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.
of North America
Richard J Mouw
Action Center of Reform Judaism
NCC News contact:
Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,
For more information
contact the Rev. Richard Killmer,
Executive Director, National
Religious Campaign Against Torture, 316 F Street NE, Suite 200,
Washington, DC 20002; Tel: 202.547.1920 or 207.846.1614, Fax: