Monday, January 10, 2005

The Religious Right, Torture and Integrity

In the August 2002 memo, then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote, "We conclude that torture as defined ... covers only extreme acts."

According to Bybee, U.S. law defined "severe" pain as that "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death."

Asked by Leahy if he agreed with that position at the time, Gonzales answered: "I don't recall today whether or not I was in agreement with all of the analysis. But I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached by the department."

From CNN, January 7, 2005

People of faith look to their religious leaders for guidance on matters of ethics. These leaders teach us that our God has ordained that murder, theft, incest, adultery and a number of other acts are wrong and prohibited. When things happen in our society that are counter to the ethical standards set by our God people of faith have a moral obligation to enter the public square and make our case. This is the responsibility of the faithful in a democracy.

When President Clinton lied under oath about sex with an intern the Religious Right spoke up. When the people of the Sudan were being slaughtered the Religious Right spoke again. On any one of a number of topics people of faith have spoken, often loudly, out of a conviction that our very humanity rests on our ability to stand firmly against our propensity to perform the inhuman.

Not long ago the President of the United States placed in nomination for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, a man who does not understand that torture is wrong or worse tried to convince his president that torture was right. More disturbingly, the Religious Right, whose voice has been so loud and so strident on any one of a number of issues has been silent on the issue of torture.

Let me say this simply, the self proclaimed leaders of my faith have failed. They have failed because there is something that they covet more than a love of God; political power. Having achieved political power they must preserve it even if preserving it means defending their anointed President when he fails to condemn torture, even if it means going against their God.

All that the United States really has to offer the world is a vision of how things might be. If our actions include torture our vision has no integrity if we believe integrity equals moral consistency. If we engage in torture we cannot offer the world a moral vision. If we engage in torture we have lost and so has the rest of the world.

In the absence of a loud clear voice from the Religious Right I will say it simply, torture is wrong.


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