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NCC Assembly pledges 'ever-vigilant' care
in guarding rights in post 9/11 America

Hunt Valley, Md., November 10 Recalling past instances when war and social upheavals threatened civil and religious liberties in the United States, the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service pledged to be "ever-vigilant" in defending those rights in post 9/11 America.

In a resolution passed Nov. 9, the General Assembly committed itself "to the monitoring of current and potential civil and religious liberties abuses" and pledged to educate member communions "on the importance of upholding civil and religious liberties, even and most critically in times of national distress."

Since the terror attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the nation has been preoccupied by the war on terror and the war in Iraq. These stresses have "led this country to the point of willingly sacrificing the very ideals that have made it great," the resolution says.

Threats to liberties include indefinite detention and the withholding of due process; extraordinary rendition and torture; arbitrary designation of enemy combatants; the suspicion of immigrants and those applying for immigrant status; the invasion of private medical records, library borrowing and other personal documents; "and a creeping reliance on selective religious fundamentalism as the lens for shaping public policy, especially at the expense of religious communities.

In addition, the USA PATRIOT Act has expanded government intrusion "in the private lives of individuals."

The resolution noted earlier times of crisis that caused compromises in U.S. civil and religious liberties, including the McCarthy era in the 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. In each case, the NCC issued policy statements supporting individual rights.

Today, the resolution stated, "the war in Iraq has increasingly eroded national confidence in the implementation of this 'war on terror,' a development compounded by exposure by Hurricane Katrina of the fault-lines in Homeland Security capabilities."

Attentiveness to civil and religious liberties is important, the resolution said, because "as women and men of faith we believe our increasingly diverse society is best served by expanding, rather than narrowing, the opportunities of people of all faiths to access the public square, and thereby expand mutual interaction and respect."

Contact NCC News: Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350; Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252


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