In what can only be described as unprecedented, 27 religious leaders including pastor Rick Warren, Elie Wiesel and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have signed a statement urging the United States to; “abolish torture now – without exceptions.”
The call comes from a new group calling itself: the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. The group will be placing ads in newspapers across the country. The group formed after alleged abuses of human rights in US detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
It is an encouraging sign that religious leaders from across the spectrum have come out and condemned the use of torture by the Bush administration. More encouraging is the fact that those who called for the end of torture in “all it’s forms” cover a broad range of religious views including: Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and Rev. William J. Byron, former president of Catholic University.
In a further bold step, the signers of the torture ban state:
“By reaffirming the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as well as torture, the McCain amendment, now signed into law, is a step in the right direction. Yet it’s implementation remains unclear.”
In response to the statement, Deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino said the administration has “the utmost respect for all religious leaders.” But, she continued, “I’ll simply repeat what the president has said many times, which is that this government does not torture, and we adhere to the international conventions against torture. That is our policy, and it will remain our policy.”
At present there are a little over 5000 signatures to the statement by various religious leaders, groups, and lay people.
It remains to be seen if “all forms” would include what has come to be known as “moderate pressure” or “torture light.”