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Archive on resisting torture -- # 3
March through September 2006

More recent items >>

For earlier postings on torture, from November 2005 through February 2006 >>
June through October 2005 >>

We must still resist

House Republicans pass legislation to allow torture – by whatever name    [9-28-06]

Yesterday the House passed a bill that would allow the Bush administration to use interrogation methods that certainly look a lot like torture, even though the President has been careful to call them something a little less than torture. The bill also would allow the President to prosecute detainees accused of terrorism, with little regard for the niceties of basic and constitutional rights.

The Senate is likely to act soon on a similar bill, which has been allowed to move forward because some of the leading Republican "moderates" reached a compromise with Bush.

It seems unlikely that any mere citizens can resist this legitimizing of torture and abandonment of basic human rights, but just in case you want to try – or at least do informed grumbling about it – here are some helpful resources:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rogue State
Lawbreaker and torturer -- that's America, loud and proud.

Matthew Yglesias, a staff writer of The American Prospect, reminds us of George W. Bush’s statement in 2003: "The United States is committed to the world-wide elimination of torture,and we are leading this fight by example." He also said then that "torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit."

But now things have changed. With the "compromise" between the Administration advocates of torture (nicely redefined) and the "moderate" Republicans who oppose torture, the U.S. is placing itself firmly among the rogue regimes.

Yglesias continues:

Other countries, of course, practice torture in violation of international law. As has now been clear for a while, we have been in their company for some years. The latest twist, however, is that we now won't show any shame about it. Rather than simply violating the laws to which we have agreed to adhere, we're repudiating them, simply denying that the standard by which civilized nations operate apply to us.

The full article >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rushing off a cliff

The New York Times, in an editorial the day after the passage of the bill, offers a good commentary on the politics behind the bill’s passage, and "some of the bill’s biggest flaws."   The editorial >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The National Religious Campaign against Torture provides much good material, suggestions for action, and more.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Center for Victims of Torture has produced excellent material based on their years of experience in helping survivors of torture to recover.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Presbyterian-based network No2Torture is deeply involved in the opposition to torture.

Urge Congress to stand firm against Administration pressure to permit torture    [9-19-06]

Both FaithfulAmerica.com, which is related to the National Council of Churches, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, have issued calls for people of faith to raise their voices, encouraging members of Congress to resist the pressures from the President to legitimize the use of torture (which he may be moderating slightly in response to the many Senators and Representatives, even from his own party, who are refusing to support his efforts).

They both provide helpful information to use in writing to Congress.

Go to FaithfulAmerica.org  .... and/or to Friends Committee on National Legislation

Added action against torture

Religious coalition calls for ban on use of torture
Presbyterian-founded group publishes anti-torture newspaper ad
   [9-19-06]

As Congress debates legislation this week on the treatment of military detainees, a group of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the United States has called on the U.S. government to forswear the use of torture "without exceptions" and in all cases.

"Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear," the leaders say in a statement published as a paid advertisement in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call on Tuesday (Sept. 19).

Originally published in the New York Times on June 13, the full-page ad is part of a new initiative by the Presbyterian-founded National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), which says it is working "for the immediate cessation of torture by the United States, whether direct or by proxy, within our territory or abroad."

The group was founded by the Rev. George Hunsinger, a Presbyterian minister and theology professor at Princeton Theological Seminary, in response to allegations of human rights abuses at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

See the full story from Presbyterian News Service >>

On ending torture -- and calling for CIA accountability
[9-14-06]

Witherspooner Rev. Betty Hale writes:

I would think the Center [for Victims of Torture] would be one of the best sources of perspective we can find....   It's still hard to believe that America is having a debate about this

shalom, salaam, peace
Betty

As the Administration presses for more freedom to use torture, it’s time to speak out together:

The Center is urging people to contact their representatives in Congress, calling them to hold the CIA accountable for the torture methods they have used.

And based on their own years of experience in helping people recover from experiences of torture, the Center describes what's really at stake in the US use of torture, and what are realities involved.

The Torturer's Apprentice   [9-8-06]

This week, with just two months to go before the national elections for Congress and many other offices, the President has focused a number of speeches on the issue of torture and the detainment – in some cases at secret locations outside the US – of alleged terrorists.

There have been many reports and comments on Mr. Bush’s speeches, including one wide-ranging essay by Ray McGovern. McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer, then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

He notes the interesting emphasis in Bush’s statements that "military necessity" justifies less-than-humane treatment of prisoners, and points to the President’s apparent concern that Americans, including himself, could well be open to charges of war crimes on the basis of the treatment of prisoners.

The article >>

As Congress again ponders US use of torture:

CCR publishes first report on torture at Guantánamo with declassified primary accounts from current detainees and attorneys    [7-15-06]

On July 10, 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) published the first report citing declassified primary accounts from current detainees and their American attorneys to detail torture and inhumane treatment by U.S. officials at Guantanamo Bay prison.

The "Report on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment of Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba" is the most comprehensive primary source account ever published of ongoing abuse at the prison, detailing systematic physical, psychological, sexual, medical and religious abuse of detainees, filling 51 pages and 279 footnotes. The report is particularly significant in light of the Supreme Court's recent Hamdan decision because it catalogues conduct by U.S. officials in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which the court applied to detainees, and analyzes the administration's attempt to create a "legal black hole" for enemy combatants in sections discussing the administration's liability concerns regarding conduct at the base Geneva, war crimes, and the forthcoming revisions to the Army Field Manual.

More from CCR >>                  For the full text of the report in PDF format >>

Thanks to George Hunsinger

No2Torture’s Chicago gathering – an infusion of energy and insight, new directions for action

The No2Torture network held a gathering in Chicago on June 2-3, and Carol Wickersham sent these reflections on the event.   [6-5-06]

Dear Friends:

The Chicago gathering was an infusion of new energy, new allies and fresh strategy. Our speakers brought deep insight and new dimensions to the issue. From Christology, to politics, to legal and military concerns, we were stretched and filled. And we were fed in spirit by wonderful music and worship, and in body – with lasagna and more! For me, one of the most moving moments was during worship when Adriana Portillo-Bartow shared what it means to her as a torture survivor for the church to take action on this issue. As I listened to her it was clear to me that discouragement is not an option. We cannot give up on hope.

Over the course of the day and a half meeting we had about 80 participants, many of them new to the issue, or new to it from this angle. But our coalition did not grow just in size; we also began to forge some fresh directions.

• Some are working on materials for a very accessible congregation-friendly campaign that would include a poster, booklet and talking points.

• Others are looking at ways to increase the effectiveness of our communication, both for decision- making and getting the word out. We are hoping to produce a dvd with a set of study questions featuring two of our speakers: Doug Johnson, Executive Director for the Center for Victims of Torture and Adm. John Hutson (ret) Navy JAG, and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School.

• We are also working toward building momentum on campuses, so if you have contacts with campus pastor or student and faculty peace and justice leaders, let me know and I will pass them on.

• We are also considering a future meeting in southern California.

Stay tuned for details and upcoming developments!

Of course, it is not our goal to create a really swell social movement – though I have to admit solidarity makes everything seem more possible – and lasagna doesn't hurt either. Our goal is not even to change public opinion, though that must be forefront in our minds in all that we do. Our goal is to be faithful to God by doing what we can to end torture, because torture is an insult to the image of God in every human being.

I am grateful to our co-sponsors: McCormick Seminary, the National Religious Coalition to Abolish Torture and First Presbyterian Church LaGrange and to our wonderful planning team who pulled it off so gracefully.

I hope others will weigh in with their impressions and opinions. It is so good to be working with you all.

pax,

Carol Wickersham

But some not-so-good news on torture:

Army Manual will skip Geneva Convention detainee rule    [6-5-06]

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.
The L A Times report >>

Final list o#speakersf speakers for the conference:

Rear Admiral John Hutson (Ret. USN), Keynote Speaker, President and Dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center, former Executive Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. This talk on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. will also be open to unregistered guests.

Adriana Portillo-Bartow, Deputy Regional Director, Amnesty International and survivor of repression in El Salvador and Guatemala

Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Issues, Washington Office of the PC(USA)

Douglas A. Johnson, Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture

The Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, Vice Moderator of the General Assembly and Associate Pastor of Lakeview Presbyterian Church, New Orleans

Luis Rivera, Assoc. Professor of Theology at McCormick Seminary and Director of the Center for Latino/a Theology and Ministry

Carol Wickersham, an organizer of the No2Torture movement, Presbyterian pastor, Beloit College Sociology Faculty

 


Presbyterians urged to fight torture

'Torture Awareness Month' includes Chicago gathering    [5-25-06]

See this story and photos on the PCUSA web site >>

by Evan Silverstein, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE - May 24, 2006 – As the Bush administration continues defending its treatment of terrorism suspects, Presbyterians and other faith followers are being urged to participate in "Torture Awareness Month" activities in June.

A number of human rights, civil liberties and religious organizations have declared the month-long observance to protest the practice of torture wherever it occurs, especially amid growing evidence that the United States government is systematically engaging in the use of torture and inhuman treatment against prisoners held in connection with the war on terror.

"The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program encourages Presbyterians to identify appropriate ways to participate in Torture Awareness Month," said the Rev. Mark Koenig, the peacemaking program's associate for resources and publications. "Our confessions affirm that human beings are created in God's image. Rooted in that affirmation, Presbyterian General Assemblies have consistently spoken against the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment."

Koenig said the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program (http://www.pcusa.org/peacemaking/) is also encouraging Presbyterians to take part in the June 26 United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (http://www.un.org/events/torture/).

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition International (http://www.tassc.org/) (TASSC), a coalition of torture survivors from more than 60 countries. TASSC is planning a number of events and activities during the month including prayer vigils, fasting, education and advocacy.

Coinciding with the start of Torture Awareness Month, a grassroots network of Presbyterians called the No2Torture (http://www.no2torture.org/) movement will hold a gathering in the Chicago-area to demand fair treatment for prisoners and to educate people about the U.S. government's questionable interrogation methods.

The two-day event, which will feature speakers, worship, and the stories of torture victims, will kick off June 2 at First Presbyterian Church in LaGrange, IL.

Organizers of the symposium say that the use of torture for any reason - even in the name of fighting terrorism - is immoral and ineffective, a crime against humanity that cannot be justified.

"Torture is just an absolute violation of God's creation of human beings in God's image," said the Rev. Kirsten Klepfer, a Presbyterian pastor in Iowa who is helping organize the gathering. "Torture, both for the person being tortured and for the person torturing, is a violation of who we're created to be."

In January, the No2Torture group held a similar gathering in Miami, FL, calling for an end to inappropriate detention practices. Most of the 50 participants were Presbyterians. The turnout included pastors, church members, military chaplains, college students and seminary professors.  For our reports on the Miami gathering >>

Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was a catalyst for the group's first meetings during the 2005 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference along with the Rev. Carol Wickersham, a Presbyterian minister and sociology professor at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

Christians are obligated as a matter of faith to speak out against severe human rights violations such as torture, according to Luis R. Rivera, an associate professor of theology at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

"The heart of our faith and gospel links us directly to the issue of torture," said Rivera, who will speak at the gathering. "After all, we live our faith and mission sustained by the memory, presence and hope of a tortured Christ who through resurrection became survivor and savior."

Rivera will be joined by other speakers at the event, including keynoter Rear Adm. (retired) John D. Hutson, the former chief Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, a prominent attorney and the current dean and president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, NH.

"It's important to us (to hear) what the military has to say about this because they are involved," Klepfer said. "His talk will be an important piece."

Also speaking will be the Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, vice moderator of the PC(USA)'s General Assembly and associate pastor of Lakeview Presbyterian Church in New Orleans; Catherine Gordon, the associate for international issues in the Presbyterian Washington Office; Doug Johnson, executive director of the Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, MN; and Wickersham.

Wickersham said in January that the PC(USA) has condemned torture, specifically in a statement passed by the denomination's General Assembly in 2004, but never "got up above the noise."

"This is a moral outrage, and the faith community's voice needs to be weighing in on this," she said of torture.

United States Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) will receive the group's 2006 No2Torture Award, which recognizes the exceptional effort of an individual or group that takes pragmatic steps toward ending the practice of torture.

Durbin has co-sponsored legislation prohibiting torture, including the McCain amendment that bans cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of detainees in American custody. He is also co-sponsoring legislation currently before the Senate that would prohibit the "extraordinary rendition" of prisoners to other countries that practice torture.

McCormick seminary is among the event's co-sponsors along with the Peacemaking Mission Team of Chicago Presbytery, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), a newly formed group organized by the Rev. George Hunsinger, a Presbyterian minister and theologian at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, NJ.

More than three-dozen faith organizations including the PC(USA) have already joined NRCAT, which was launched during a conference convened by Hunsinger at Princeton seminary in January. The group represents Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith traditions.

Religious leaders such as Ufford-Chase have signed up to support the faith-based group at the NRCAT website: www.nrcat.org.

NRCAT hopes to convince prominent religious and political leaders to endorse an ad campaign it plans to start up next month to raise awareness about torture and to generate grassroots support for the group.

"We are gathering the forces that can and, I believe, will make a difference," Hunsinger said.

Allegations of torture have dogged the Bush administration since April 2004, when photographs of Army reservists mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq became public.

Since then, evidence of other abuse has surfaced from the deaths of U.S.-held detainees to secret CIA prisons with "unique" interrogation methods, extraordinary rendition, and the torture of prisoners at facilities run by the U.S.-backed Iraqi regime.

These revelations have sparked a roiling debate centered on human rights, international law, and judicial argument.

"I think having Torture Awareness Month is a crying need right now in American public life," Hunsinger said. "Torture presents a threat to our national security and even to our democratic form of government. This is no time for complacency or for turning a blind eye to what is happening in U.S. detention facilities abroad."

Another group with which the No2Torture movement and Presbyterian Washington Office has been working is Stop Torture Now (http://www.tortureawareness.org/). The coalition of NGOs plans a daylong teach-in on June 25 in Washington, DC that will focus on extraordinary rendition.

On June 26, the group will hold a "Lobby Day" where activists will fan out across Capitol Hill to visit members of Congress to seek their support for legislation that would end the use of extraordinary rendition.

For more information about Torture Awareness Month and a schedule of events and activities, log on www.tassc.org.

For more information about the No2Torture Chicago-area gathering, log on www.no2torture.org, or call (319) 268-1132, or by email at LaGrange2006@No2Torture.org.

For more information about events sponsored by Stop Torture Now, log on http://www.tortureawareness.org/registration.html.

For more information about the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), log on www.nrcat.org, or contact Hunsinger at (609) 252-2114, or by email at george.hunsinger@ptsem.edu.

June is Torture Awareness Month in the United States    [5-16-06]

From FaithfulAmerica:

If the very thought of that saddens or angers you, you are not alone.   

We urged Congress to pass the McCain Amendment banning torture as U.S. policy, and it passed. However, when the President signed the measure, he added a "signing statement," essentially declaring that he could ignore it if he wants to.

We believe the Bush Administration's position in this action is shameful and wholly opposed to the convictions of people of faith and conscience in this nation. The world must know that America abhors all forms of torture.

Thousands of persons and more than three dozen faith-based organizations have come together to endorse a statement released by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. FaithfulAmerica has endorsed this statement and today we are asking you to join with the thousands who believe that Torture is a Moral Issue by endorsing this statement as well.

Please click HERE to read and sign the statement.

Then pass the URL on to your friends and colleagues.

Other Efforts To Know About:

So many important efforts to halt torture deserve our attention. Here are two: Our brothers and sisters at Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic Peace Movement, has a national sign-on statement you may wish to read and sign as well. Here is the link.  (Look for "A Christian Call To Stop Torture Now.")

The Torture Abolition and Survivors and Support Coalition International (TASSC) are the sponsors of Torture Awareness Week. Here's where to learn more.

Let's end this national embarrassment and help reclaim the moral high ground on this issue. Thank you for your continued action to end torture.


Blessings to you as ever,

Vince Isner and the FaithfulAmerica.org Team

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase encourages people to join in the No2Torture conference in Chicago, June 2 - 3     [5-4-06]


Friends,

I want to add my voice to the invitation to participate in the Chicago No2Torture gathering on June 2 and 3 as a part of the beginning of Torture Awareness month. This is an opportunity to come together to pray, learn, discuss and strategize as an act of solidarity with those who suffer and as a witness to our faith.

Our first event in Miami in January was one of the most significant events I've participated in during my moderatorial term. There was a strong sense of unity among folks who probably found themselves surprised to be in the same room with one another. I do believe that gatherings like this one are one of the building blocks for the new kind of church that builds a solid consensus and finds its voice in the broader society.

While you are together in Chicago, I will be participating in a 75 mile desert trek following the route of migrants who cross our border. Another important witness, though I'm sorry not to be able to be with you.

I am very pleased that Jean Marie Peacock will be there as the Vice Moderator of the General Assembly. I will be with you in Spirit, while in body at the border, a different witness but to the same Lord, tortured and made whole.

Blessings,

Rick, Moderator, 216th General Assembly, PC(USA)

Say No! To Torture

[revised version, 5-1-06]

All are welcome to attend a gathering on June 2-3 at First Presbyterian Church, LaGrange, Illinois (Chicago west suburbs) to learn, pray, strategize and network. Presenters include:

Rear Adm. John Hutson (US Navy, ret.), President and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, former Executive Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy

Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Issues, Washington Office of the PC (USA)

The Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Ruth Barrett Rendler, Deputy Director of the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)

Luis Rivera, Assoc. Professor of Theology, McCormick Seminary

The Rev. Carol Wickersham, No2 Torture Organizer, Sociology Faculty Beloit College

The gathering is free (an offering will be received) and open to all who wish to make common cause; however, all participants must register. People are welcome to bring sleeping bags to stay at the church, or to reserve a room at a nearby motel. Meals and child care are provided. For more information, or to register, go to No2Torture.org .

Who Is Jesus Christ for Us Today?
[5-1-06]

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Seminary and a leading voice in the Presbyterian movement to oppose torture, asks in a sermon, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?"  His answer is that Christ today is found among the victims of U.S. torture. 

He closes with an updated interpretation of I John 4:20:  "Those who say, 'I love God,' and torture their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who torture a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen -- and the same holds true for those who turn a blind eye to torture or otherwise condone it."   The full sermon >>

The U.S. uses torture. We need to understand it.    [3-31-06]

Torture is nothing new, but we need to learn more about it, including its long-term effects on victims, its limitations as a source of information, and its corrupting influence on those who use it.

The Berkeley Daily Planet reviews two new books which help meet this need.

The review begins:

The Bush-Cheney regime may represent a radical break with this nation’s traditions in many areas, but in making torture a central weapon in its "war on terror," the current administration is simply building on a body of theory and practice that goes back more than half a century.

That, at least, is the conclusion suggested by two new books on the modern history of American torture.

A Question of Torture, by historian Alfred W. McCoy, traces the influence of "mind control" research conducted by and for the CIA in the 1950s in shaping the interrogation techniques used by American agents and allies ever since.

Truth, Torture, and the American Way, by lawyer and human-rights advocate Jennifer K. Harbury, highlights parallels in the practices of U.S. government operatives and their local "assets" in the current conflict and in the civil wars that wracked Central America in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The rest of the review >>

Torture happens in the US, too, says Amnesty International report

Police target lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA
[3-27-06]

"Nothing is more unfair than singling out a group and making them criminal when they are not."

R. Boevingloh, a 60-year-old gay man, February 2004.

R. Boevingloh was walking in a park in St Louis, Missouri, in June 2001 when he made the mistake of greeting an undercover policeman who walked past him. He was arrested, charged with lewd conduct and placed on two years’ probation. "I did nothing wrong," he told AI, "I did not ‘cruise’ anyone, did not expose myself, did not hurt anyone and was targeted simply for being a gay male in a city park."

In a new report AI reveals a range of human rights violations perpetrated by law enforcement officials against LGBT people in the USA. Whilst some of these abuses are so violent that they amount to torture, by far the more pervasive are those abuses committed day in and day out, making life intolerable for many members of the LGBT community.

All too often US law enforcement officials share the prejudices prevalent in society, such as homophobia, racism or sexism. When vague laws give police officers the power to decide what is "offensive", the enforcement of these laws can become a means of punishing LGBT people for perceived transgression of social norms. LGBT people are frequently targeted for selective enforcement of minor public order or morals offences such as "loitering with intent to solicit","public lewdness" or "disorderly conduct". The California Supreme Court, for instance, noted that the State’s prohibition of "lewd conduct" had been selectively enforced against gay men.

Transgender women are particularly at risk of such prejudicial treatment as many police officers assume that they are sex workers. AI has received numerous reports of transgender women being stopped and questioned by police when going about everyday tasks such as shopping. LGBT rights activists in Chicago told AI that police officers see transgender women as easy targets when they need to meet their allotted arrest quota.

It is hardly surprising that when LGBT people are victims of crime, they often prefer not to report the crime than face a dismissive, hostile or abusive response from the police. AI has found a pattern of police failing to respond appropriately to crimes against LGBT individuals. Police lack of understanding, or in more extreme cases hostility, has resulted in some cases in officers arresting the victims of the crime rather than the perpetrators.

In July 2000 a lesbian in St Paul, Minnesota, reported to a police officer than she had been attacked and abused in a supermarket. The officer refused to take action and even threatened to arrest her and her partner. When she told him that her attacker had called them "dykes", the police officer replied that if they chose that lifestyle they must "expect some people to have a problem with it".
Discriminatory policing can affect individuals in virtually every sphere of their daily lives. The effect of police targeting of LGBT people can be profound. Transgender woman Rachel Thompson told AI how a violent attack by a police officer changed her life: "That is when I decided to become an activist – abuse can be very inspiring… I will never forget to fear the police. I will always mistrust the system…"

Read this on the AI website >>

This article will be published in the April 2006 edition of The Wire.

For more information see Stonewalled – Still demanding respect: Police abuse and misconduct against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the USA

More details from the Princeton conference on torture   [3-8-06]

We have reported before on the conference on "Theology, International Law, and Torture," held last January at Princeton Theological Seminary. 

We are happy now to bring a more detailed account than we have been able to offer before, prepared for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship by Lois Baker, Anne Barstow, and Tom Driver.

It begins:

Since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was revealed in 2004, there has been considerable debate in secular quarters about the illegality of the U. S. use of torture. This debate has been dominated by references to human rights and international law. The religious community, however, has not spoken out in a unified voice against torture and has not made the case for its immorality. The conference held at Princeton Theological Seminary Jan. 13-15 was a major attempt to halt this silence by launching a national interfaith religious campaign against torture. Here the language would be that of theology in which religious groups could express the inherent wrong and sinfulness of our government’s use of inhumane treatment of prisoners in its custody.

The full report >>

Ray McGovern: "I do not wish to be associated with torture"    [3-3-06]

Ray McGovern, who received a special commendation after his 27-year career with the CIA, has returned his medal and written a letter to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: "As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for ‘especially commendable service’ during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture."

TruthOut.com notes that "McGovern and 15 others took action [yesterday] in the halls of Congress. The 16 donned orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by detainees at Guantánamo Bay. They wore gags over their mouths decorated with one word - torture. Not another word needed to be said as they walked the halls of Congress."   The TruthOut report >>

McGovern was one of the people present at the conference on torture held in January at Princeton. See their declaration against torture – and sign on to support it if you choose!

For earlier postings on torture, from November 2005 through February 2006 >>
June through October 2005 >>

 
 

GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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.

 

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 thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, 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 Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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