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Torture -- It's time to resist
page 4
Reports and resources beginning with November, 2008

Reports and resources from January through October, 2008

Reports on 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?       [9-12-11]

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 June      [4-20-11]

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:

bullet “Repairing the Brokenness: A Faithful Response to U.S.-sponsored Torture” – a new 10-minute video and discussion guide, focused on accountability as a path to national healing and redemption. Watch it online! Available on DVD – order for $5.00.
bulletAdvocacy resources – postcards and petition to encourage action on the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation report.
bullet Worship resources -- including sermon talking points, a prayer and bulletin insert.

You’ll find more information about these and other resources on NRCAT’s 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.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

Questions? Please email campaign@nrcat.org

National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Elect to End Torture: Vote Scorecards!
[10-23-10]

From 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 provided 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
[8-4-09]

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.”

It’s a fairly long essay, but well worth reading >>

An urgent late bulletin:

From No2Torture:
[7-22-09]

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 WASHINGTON, DC
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Noon - 1:30 PM

[5-29-09]

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 fliers are all available here.

Torture Is A Moral Issue:
Panel & Conference for People of Faith
June 26-27
Palo Alto, California

From Carol Wickersham, of Presbyterian-related No2Torture
[5-26-09]

Dear Friends,

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 perspectives.

bullet Click here for the overall article >>
bullet For details on the Friday panel, featuring Ray McGovern -- Jean Maria Arrigo -- Ben Daniel -- David DeCosse -- John Crigler
bullet For details on the Saturday conference, featuring Terry Karney, former Army Interrogator; Rev. Carol Wickersham, founder of No2Torture; Janet Alexander, Stanford Law School Professor; speaker from Center for Survivors of Torture; Multifaith Worship, Workshops & Opportunities for Action
This just in ....

Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons joins call for review of post-9/11 interrogations    [4-30-09]

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. Congressional leaders.

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."     More >>

If you’ve been saying “No to torture!” ...
Now is the time to speak out and be heard

[4-22-09]

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 Presbyterian-based group No2Torture, writes:

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 format).]

The Rev. John Shuck has gone into more detail on his 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 statement "U.S.-Sponsored Torture: A Call for a Commission of Inquiry."

bullet Endorse the call for a Commission of Inquiry

NRCAT is also asking religious institutions and organizations to endorse, as well.

bullet Urge your congregation/organization to endorse.
Prosecution of war crimes is imperative
[4-22-09]

Nick Mottern, 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.

More >>

NRCAT – the National Religious Coalition Against Torture – seeks more support for a Commission of Inquiry into U.S.-sponsored use of torture   [4-7-09]

Here is their latest communication to their members, including a number of helpful links for information and action.

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 effort:

  1. 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.
     
  2. 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.
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

U.S. use of torture is still an issue!
[2-23-09]

"You can't sweep unlawful activities under the table"

Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.

Mark Benjamin, writing for Salon.com, opens his article:

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 practices.

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.

He concludes:

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.

The full article >>

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

The National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) suggests this concrete action:

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 courtroom.

You can read more about the case in this Andrew Sullivan piece and this commentary by legal scholar Scott Horton.

Please contact 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 >>

Carol Wickersham 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 Koenig
Coordinator, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

(502) 569-5936
(888) 728-7228 ext. 5936 (toll-free)
mark.koenig@pcusa.org
www.pcusa.org/peacemaking

It's time for a Truth Commission on torture
[2-10-09]

Human 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 on Torture

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, please join.

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 went wrong.

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.
 

Torin Nelson 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

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is sponsoring two important events in the Washington, DC area in March.     [2-5-09]

This announcement has come to us from the National Religious 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: http://www.advocacydays.org/.

During Ecumenical 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 speakers include: 

•          Josh Casteel, former U.S. Army interrogator

•          Steve Colecchi, Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

•          Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor of International Politics, Catholic University of America

•          Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Co-Director of the Center on Religion and Culture, Fordham University

•          General Anthony Taguba, Chief Investigator of Abu Ghraib

For more information about this free event and to register for a dinner during the conference click here.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President, NRCAT
Richard Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT

Ending US Torture:
A Time for Hope and Healthy Skepticism
[3-3-09]

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.

 

He concludes: 

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.

The full essay >>

 

Pres. Obama orders closing of Guantánamo, end of torture

We 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 yesterday:

This is a moment for celebration and thanksgiving. We have all prayed and labored faithfully for this significant step toward ending U.S.-sponsored torture.

Thank you for all your efforts to help reach this goal.

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.

Sincerely,

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, No2Torture Coordinator
[1-23-09]

January 22, 2009

Dear Friends,

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.

pax,

Carol Wickersham, No2Torture Coordinator

Religious leaders meet with Obama transition team members, urge quick ban on torture
[1-15-09]

Carol 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 today.

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.

The 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 steps:

•          Visit his transition website at http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople.

•          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 help!

No2Torture urges ...  Now’s the time to act!

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.”
[1-12-09]

This letter is being widely distributed by the Presbyterian-related organization, No2Torture:

January 12, 2009

Dear No2Torture Friends,

Obviously, our 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:

bullet

your US Senators and Representatives;

bullet

President-elect Obama;

bullet

a local media outlet, e.g. a letter to the editor, phone call to a radio station or an article in a church newsletter;

bullet

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) web sites.

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 cruelty.

God 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.


Pax,

Rev. Carol Wickersham
No2Torture Coordinator
clwickersham@no2torture.org

What next for Guantánamo Bay?
[12-5-08]

Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, writes in The Guardian UK:

...  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 global audience.

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 Guantanamo ...

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. ...

More >>

Religious community holds "National Day of Witness"

Leaders urge president-elect Obama to make executive order banning torture one of his first official acts

[11-12-08]

Representatives from 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 Against Torture


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 Administration.

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 Principles."

"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 international reputation."

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 conventions."

"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 www.tortureisamoralissue.org


###

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 campaign@nrcat.org

National Religious Campaign Against Torture: www.tortureisamoralissue.org

 

 

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.

 

John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, 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 lightening up.

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 Shore blogspot

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 Flushing, NY.

 

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.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

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

 

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