Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

Welcome to news and networking for progressive Presbyterians 

Home page Marriage Equality Global & Social concerns    
News of the PC(USA) Immigrant rights Israel & Palestine
U S Politics, 2010-11 Inclusive ordination Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
The Tucson shootings The Economic Crisis Other churches, other faiths
     About us         Join us! Health Care Reform Archive
Just for fun Confronting torture Notes from your WebWeaver

What's Where

Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

About us

The Winter 2011 issue of
Network News
is posted here
- in Adobe PDF format.

Click here for earlier issues
Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

News of Presbyterian Voices for Justice
How to join us


Coming events calendar 

Do you want to announce an event?
Please send a note!
Food for the spirit
Book notes

Go to


NEWS of the Presbyterian Church

Got news??
Send us a note!
Social and global concerns
The U.S. political scene, 2010-11
The Middle East conflict
Uprising in Egypt
The Economic Crisis
Health Care Reform
Working for inclusive ordination
Peacemaking & international concerns
The Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Israel, Palestine, and Gaza
U. S. Politics
Election 2008
Economic justice
Fair Food Campaign
Labor rights
Women's Concerns
Sexual justice
Marriage Equality
Caring for the environment
Immigrant rights
Racial concerns
Church & State
The death penalty
The media
Other churches, other faiths
Do you want regular e-mail updates when stories are added to our web site?
Just send a note!
The WebWeaver's Space
Want books?
Search Now:


Archive on resisting torture
June through October, 2005

More recent items >>
Why the Torture Abuse Scandal Matters

George Hunsinger, the McCord Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Seminary, gathers a variety of reports of the continuing American use of torture and the Administration’s refusal to limit it significantly. He calls for four steps to challenge this, saying that "Nothing less is at stake in the torture crisis than the soul of our nation."    [10-31-05]

Time to speak to Congress against torture    [10-25-05]

The Washington Office issued an action alert yesterday, urging people to contact their representatives if they are on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. Staff for a House-Senate conference committee is meeting now to consider legislation curbing the use of torture of detainees by U.S. personnel – the "McCain amendment."

They are:

California: Randy Cunningham (CA-50th)
Florida: Bill Young (FL-10th)
Georgia: Jack Kingston (GA-1st)
Indiana: Peter Visclosky (IN-1st)
Kansas: Todd Tiahrt (KS-4th)
Minnesota: Martin Sabo (MN-5th)
Mississippi: Roger Wicker (MS-1st)
New Jersey: Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11th)
Ohio: David Hobson (OH-7th), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9th)
Pennsylvania: John Murtha (PA-12th)
Texas: Kay Granger (TX-12th), Henry Bonilla (TX-23rd)
Virginia: James Moran (VA-8th)
Washington: Norman Dicks (WA-6th)

The notice includes more information on the legislation, talking points on the issue, and more.

The full notice >>

San Francisco church approves overture opposing torture   [10-19-05]

The Session of Calvary Presbyterian Church of San Francisco has approved an overture to the General Assembly on the torture issue. The church’s web site contains the overture itself, a summary of where they are the process of getting it to the General Assembly, and a memorandum with links to some very helpful sources.

from Robert H. Laws, San Francisco, California

PBS' Frontline looks at torture   [10-19-05]

A number of knowledgeable people are urging that we all pay attention to this in-depth look at the meaning torture in our world today.  You can see it -- or read transcripts  -- on the PBS website >>

Peter Sulyok, former Coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, offers this comment:

It was well done and made the factual connections detailing how much direct orchestration came from on high, especially fellow Presbyterian Don Rumsfeld, and the torture/abuse did not appear to be the isolated creations of MPs without guidance. To the extent that the program had access to experts, it appears that besides being against international law and therefore criminal activity, torture simply doesn't produce trustworthy testimony to warrant its cruelty and inhumane barbarous actions.

I'm glad it is available on line as well. I recommend it even more now that I've seen it.

Torture: A Human Rights Perspective

A new book edited by Kenneth Roth and Minky Worden


A timely and provocative new anthology, Torture is the first book to critically assess torture from a global human rights viewpoint. International law has categorically outlawed the practice, yet the global debate around torture—the legality of its use, the extent of its use, its effectiveness—has intensified in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Revelations of torture and degradation at Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities have galvanized both proponents and opponents of torture, and underscored how imperative it is to tackle the question head-on.

Sixteen original essays from leading commentators take an unflinching look at one of the most urgent issues of our day.

Read the review from Human Rights Watch

Religious leaders strangely silent on torture   [10-3-05]

Ray McGovern, a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC, asks "Where do American religious leaders stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early 1940s."    More >>

We are happy to note, though, that the Presbyterian General Assembly in 2004 issued a strong statement condemning the use of torture, and calling for "efforts ... to ensure that such torture and abuse do not occur in the future."   More >>

And one group of Presbyterians has established an e-list, No2Torture, for the purpose of providing more information on the problem.

Bush moves to block amendments to ban torture     [10-3-05]

The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn't enough money for the Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse.

More on the proposed amendments >>

What’s happening in our society when torture is a matter open for debate?

In a sense, for human rights, we can gauge the progress of our society by assessing what has been settled and what is in open dispute. So, today, what are we to make of the fact that torture is controversial?


So asks Norman Solomon, author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
More on the book >>

Read his essay >>

What do you think?
Please send a note with your comments!

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Legislation seeks to prohibit inhumane treatment of prisoners

Now’s the time to give support!
[posted here 9-28-05]

There are reports that either the Defense Appropriations bill or the Defense Authorization bill will be brought to the Senate floor as early as this week or possibly next week.

When last seen on the Senate floor on July 26, there were a slew of amendments pending or introduced. A few had already been considered.

A listing of amendments having to do with torture or treatment or treatment of prisoners is below.

If the Defense Appropriations bill is brought up, some of these amendments could instead be offered to that bill.

If the Defense Authorization bill is brought up, there may be a shortened list of 10 - 12 amendments offered by Democrats and Republicans.

Please call your senators and ask them to support any amendment to prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.

Interrogation of prisoners

Sens. Graham (R SC) and McCain (R AZ) modified amendment No. 1505 to authorize the President to utilize the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Annual Review Board to determine the status of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Interrogation of prisoners

Sens. McCain (R AZ), Warner (R-VA), Graham (R-SC) and Collins (R-ME) modified amendment No. 1556 to prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.

Interrogation of prisoners

Sen. McCain (R AZ), Warner (R-VA), Graham (R-SC), Collins (R-ME) and Levin (D-MI) modified amendment No. 1557 to provide for uniform standards for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Department of Defense.

Interrogation of prisoners

Sen. Warner (R VA): amendment No. 1566 to provide for uniform standards and procedures for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Department of Defense.

Interrogation of prisoners

Sen. Levin (D MI), Kennedy (D-MA), Rockefeller (D-MA), Reed (D-RI): amendment No. 1494 to establish a national commission on policies and practices on the treatment of detainees since September 11, 2001.


Sen. Durbin's (D-IL) amendment No. 1570 to bar any person in the custody or under the physical control of the U.S. from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, while leaving intact the protections of the Geneva Conventions. A similar Durbin amendment was adopted as part of last year's bill in the Senate.


Sen. Leahy (D VT): amendment No. 1460 to bar renditions (transfers) of prisoners in U.S. custody to countries where the prisoners may be tortured.

Geneva convention

Sens. Nelson (D NE) and Wyden (D OR): amendment No. 1569 requiring the President to treat each enemy combatant in accordance with all the terms of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Act to end torture

This comes to us from the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.

On Saturday, Human Rights Watch released a new report based on the firsthand accounts of three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The soldiers report that in 2003 and 2004 at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) men in their battalion routinely beat and abused prisoners to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to "relieve stress."

As this report and others, including the military's own internal investigations, have revealed, the documented torture at Abu Ghraib was only part of a "broad pattern" of unlawful abuses at U.S.-run detention facilities. In the year and a half since the photos of torture appeared in the press, only one commanding officer, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, has been held accountable. She was demoted by one grade.

U.S. failure to respect human rights has increased anti-American violence, put U.S. soldiers in further danger, and harmed our nation's credibility on issues related to human rights and international law. Here at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), we are determined to reverse these trends and to defend the rights of all Iraqis.

That's why EPIC is joining Veterans for Common Sense as well as Human Rights First in calling for the establishment of an independent commission to fully investigate the torture and abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody. Show your support by signing our Open Letter demanding an Independent Commission on Torture.

In coming weeks, EPIC and its partners plan to run the open letter as an ad in a major publication that reaches every Member of Congress. Help us make that happen.



Erik Gustafson
Executive Director
Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)

Education for Peace in Iraq Center
1101 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003

McCain advocates legislation to prohibit military use of torture   [9-26-05]

Sen. John McCain, decrying new allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq by U.S. soldiers, on Sunday backed an amendment to force the American military to live up to its international obligations under the Geneva Convention and "not engage in torture" of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain (R-Ariz.) was responding to complaints by Army Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants, who all served with the 82nd Airborne Division. Their description of routine harsh treatment of captives in Iraq parallels the abuse caught in photographs at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and was contained in a Human Rights Watch report issued Friday by the advocacy group.

He said he and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another committee member, were proposing an amendment to a defense bill, which would require the military abstain from torture in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Read the report in the LA Times
Or find it on

Washington Office calls for action

The Presbyterian Washington Office has sent out a brief and helpful call to support McCain’s bills to end the US military’s use of torture.   Check it out >>

You may want to join in ...

September Mobilization

Three Days of Actions
for Peace & Justice in D.C.

Saturday, September 24
Massive March, Rally & Anti-war Fair
Gather 11 AM at the Washington Monument

bulletSat., Sept. 24 - Operation Ceasefire Concert
bulletSun., Sept. 25 - Interfaith Service, Grassroots Training
bulletMon., Sept. 26 - Congressional Education Day and Mass Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Disobedience, Linking Anti-war and Global Justice Protests

Within the three days of actions in D.C. there will be a special series of events dedicated to ...  Stop Torture!        [8-22-05]

New reports surface about detainee abuse
Mistreatment was routine, soldiers say

The Washington Post reports that two soldiers and an officer with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division have told Human Rights Watch of systemic detainee abuse and human rights violations at U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, recounting beatings, forced physical exertion and psychological torture of prisoners, the group said.

The organization’s 30-page report describes an Army captain's 17-month effort to gain clear understanding of how U.S. soldiers were supposed to treat detainees, and depicts his frustration with what he saw as widespread abuse that the military's leadership failed to address. The Army officer made clear that he believes low-ranking soldiers have been held responsible for abuse to cover for officers who condoned it.

The soldiers described violence against detainees held at Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. These abuses included putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. And like soldiers accused at Abu Ghraib, these troops said that military intelligence interrogators encouraged their actions, telling them to make sure the detainees did not sleep or were physically exhausted so as to get them to talk.

The full report >>

The Rights of Detainees: Who Is Protecting Whom From What?

Princeton theologian George Hunsinger summarizes much of the concern being expressed about continuing U.S. detention and mistreatment of "suspected terrorists." This behavior clearly contravenes U.S. and international law, and is becoming an increasing concern among conservatives as well as moderate and liberal citizens. 

He concludes: "Are we still looking at a ‘few bad apples’? Or at the cover-up of a hidden culture (or subculture) of torture? As the Pew Research Center poll suggests, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to ask: Who is protecting whom from what?"

More >>

Presbyterians say No to Torture   [8-22-05]

A grassroots group of Presbyterians, concerned about the treatment of prisoners captured and held by the US and our allies since the 9/11 attacks, has established a Yahoo Group to facilitate communication and information sharing. Learn more at

In introducing this Yahoo group "No2Torture," the organizers say:

"This Yahoo group is the result of a grassroots groundswell that began at the 2005 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Over 50 people came together to begin to organize as advocates for humane treatment of prisoners captured and held by the United States and our allies since the 9/11 attacks. We are motivated by love of God and our country, and by concern for captive and captors alike. To this end, we have decided to work, study and pray together and to take such action as we deem necessary to promote peace, justice and compassion. All who wish to join us are welcome. It is important to note that, while those who initiate this conversation are Presbyterian, motivated by the traditions and statements of our church, including the 2005 General Assembly Statement Against Torture and Abuse, we do not speak for the church."

Torture on Our Hands

Presbyterian minister Byron Bangert sees America’s use of torture as not surprising given our history. But it’s all the more important, then, for Christians to oppose it, and to make clear our moral outrage. 

Howling about Sen. Durbin’s apology    [6-24-05]

Your WebWeaver recently grumbled about the pressure on Senator Durbin to apologize for speaking the truth about America’s use of torture. If you’d like something a little livelier, check out the full-scale rant by Vietnam veteran John Cory, who opens with the elegant line, "Sometimes I get so angry I could just spit." 

But he offers three things the hapless Democrats might do to regain his trust and support – and that of many others. And he closes with a somewhat irreverent but very relevant version of the Lord’s Prayer.

Read it >>

So who’s apologizing?

OK, let’s get this straight. The United States, through various agencies including the armed forces, the FBI, and various intelligence agencies, has for a year or two used torture on many of the people it has detained for alleged involvement in terrorism. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, of Illinois, has had the gall – or the guts – to say that’s what we’ve been doing. And he has been pressured to apologize. Even many of his Democratic colleagues have joined in the cry for an apology.

Details >>

And the administration that has concealed, condoned, justified, and quite possibly encouraged the torture ... Apologies? Not likely. Indeed, their technique seems to work just fine: When you’re accused of something serious, blame the accuser – for rudeness if nothing worse. The focus shifts to the faults of the accuser, and you’re clear once again.

The ancient Hebrews had a similar technique for dealing with sins: Find a goat, place the burden of all your sin and guilt on the goat, and slaughter it. The scapegoat. Many Jewish teachers, including Jesus, said that wasn’t a sufficient way to deal with sin. There had to be repentance and change on the part of the sinner. Of course many followers of Jesus got tired of that, and started placing Jesus himself in the role of scapegoat, who "died for our sins."

That still works for lots of folks. Including, apparently, some folks in High Places in Washington.

For earlier reports on the issue of military recruiting, and how parents are resisting it ... >>

Torture: We Are All Complicit - But What Can We Do About It?

Robert Fisk has written: "We are all complicit in these vile acts of torture - but what can we do about it? If our government uses information drained out of these creatures, it is we who are holding the whips."   [6-22-05]

The whole story from The Independent (UK), on or CommonDreams

On resisting ...    

Growing Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents

The New York Times reports that "Two years into the war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move." No Child Left Behind, which requires schools to turn over students' home phone numbers and addresses to recruiters unless parents opt out, often serves as "the spark that ignites parental resistance."

Parents are organizing to opt out for their children from the schools’ providing of personal information to the military. In some cases they are pressing school districts to do that for all their students, though they then face the loss of significant federal aid. And they are helping their children to understand the deceptive recruiting ploys that are being used, and to understand the reasons why the parents themselves oppose the whole idea of this war, and of war in general.

and how difficult resisting can be ...

When Marine recruiters get out of hand

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on one mother’s struggle to rescue her son from the very high-pressure tactics of Marine recruiters, including deception, emotional appeals, and what looks a lot like bribery and kidnapping.

More resources on our concern for torture and the abuse of human rights

Thanks to readers/visitors/friends who have provided these items:

Amnesty International provides a number of reports on US betrayal of human rights, including specific reports on Guantánamo, and AI’s response to Pres. Bush’s dismissal of their criticisms.

Fox News interviews Amnesty's U.S. chief, William Schulz.
      Read the report by the
Washington Post

Thomas L. Friedman says of Guantánamo, "just shut it down."

Shut it down. Just shut it down. I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down…

Carter Urges Closing Of Guantanamo Prison  Reported by the Washington Post, June 08, 2005
Former president Jimmy Carter called Tuesday for the United States to close its detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Carter Center and Human Rights First offer recommendations for "promoting human rights and human security"


And ideas for action ...

From the Rev. Betty Hale of Roxboro, NC


1. I think a groundswell of support for an independent commission is developing. We can follow that story (e.g. Carter Center report below) and write our congresspeople.

"Urge Congress to Establish an Independent Commission on Torture"

Also check the home page of Human Rights First

2. We can support Amnesty International financially.

3. We can subscribe to Sojourners' "SoJomail" and participate in action alerts such as the earlier "open letter to Attorney General nominee Alberto R. Gonzalez, asking him 'to denounce the use of torture under any circumstances.' " (did not seem to have the desired effect.... though maybe it did help get the earlier extreme interrogation memo substituted just before his confirmation hearing)

4. I'm very interested to see developments & recommendations on this site! Thanks so much!

So there's an invitation!
What ideas can you add -- resources, actions, opinions ... just send a note to be shared here!

For more recent postings on the terrible issue of torture >>


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.

If you like what you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

Darcy Hawk
4007 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA  15044-8312


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!


To top

© 2011 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!