Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Presbyterians Say No to Torture


Rather than give a summary of all the important actions by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), I thought many deserve their own special post.

This one on torture is especially important. You can read the news story about it in the Presbyterian Outlook. The following was passed on a voice vote after unanimous recommendation by the committee.

I have to say, that it is odd, that the church should even have to tell the President this.

My favorite line:


Our President must lead our nation back to our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.


Final Text:
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) do the following:

1. Affirm the Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty, as developed by The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Center for Victims of Torture, and Evangelicals for Human Rights, which states:

Though we come from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life, we agree that the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment against prisoners is immoral, unwise, and un-American.

In our effort to secure ourselves, we have resorted to tactics which do not work, which endanger US personnel abroad, which discourage political, military, and intelligence cooperation from our allies, and which ultimately do not enhance our security.

Our President must lead our nation back to our core principles. We must be better than our enemies, and our treatment of prisoners captured in the battle against terrorism must reflect our character and values as Americans.

Therefore, we believe the President of the United States should issue an Executive Order that provides as follows:

The “Golden Rule.” We will not authorize or use any methods of interrogation that we would not find acceptable if used against Americans, be they civilians or soldiers.

One national standard. We will have one national standard for all US personnel and agencies for the interrogation and treatment of prisoners. Currently, the best expression of that standard is the US Army Field Manual, which will be used until any other interrogation technique has been approved based on the Golden Rule principle.

The rule of law. We will acknowledge all prisoners to our courts or the International Red Cross. We will in no circumstance hold persons in secret prisons or engage in disappearances. In all cases, prisoners will have the opportunity to prove their innocence in ways that fully conform to American principles of fairness.

Duty to protect. We acknowledge our historical commitment to end the use of torture and cruelty in the world.The US will not transfer any person to countries that use torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Checks and balances. Congress and the courts play an invaluable role in protecting the values and institutions of our nation and must have and will have access to the information they need to be fully informed about our detention and interrogation policies.

Clarity and accountability. All US personnel—whether soldiers or intelligence staff—deserve the certainty that they are implementing policy that complies fully with the law. Henceforth all US officials who authorize, implement, or fail in their duty to prevent the use of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners will be held accountable, regardless of rank or position.

2. Direct the Stated Clerk to communicate this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture to the president of the United States, the major candidates for the presidency, and to others in the federal government charged with oversight of the policies and practices of interrogations this action and the related positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on issues related to torture.

3. Encourage individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies to lift up our commitment to human rights, the elimination of torture, and to ethical standards in interrogation.

4. Direct the Peacemaking Program to identify or create devotional, study, worship, and homiletic resources, and make them available on the Web so that individuals, congregations, and middle governing bodies can lift up our opposition to torture and our commitment to human rights and ethical standards in interrogation.

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