A time comes when silence is betrayal . . . We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness so close around us.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Washington Region Religious Campaign Against Torture
Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved - policy-makers, perpetrators, victims, and those who stand silently by allowing it to happen. Torture contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals and undermines the quest for justice. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable. Nothing less than the soul of our nation is at stake in this issue.
As religious organizations, leaders and individuals, we are deeply distressed that our Congress is poised to legalize torture. The just-announced, so-called "compromise" on torture indeed threatens to compromise fundamental human values and American's core rule of law. As Amnesty International and the Friends Committee on National Legislation confirm, this legislation (the "War Crimes Act" revision and "Procedural Rules for Military Commissions"), among other egregious provisions, would:
Undermine the rule of law and give the President the freedom to interpret the Geneva Conventions any way he sees fit;
Provide retroactive immunity to those responsible for human rights abuses;
Exempt from prosecution those who authorize treatment traditionally considered torture;
Allow secret CIA prisons, and "disappeared" detainees;
Allow the CIA and other non-military personnel (such as civilian contractors) to use brutal and abusive interrogation techniques which fall outside of the Geneva Conventions;
Permit the use in court of evidence obtained through coercion and hearsay;
Prohibit U.S. federal courts from hearing suits based on violation of the Geneva Conventions, for past as well as future suits;
Strip detainees of meaningful access to US courts;
Suspend habeas corpus, the provision for judicial review of the legality of a detainee's imprisonment;
Authorize the President's use of "enemy combatant" status (as defined by the President) as the starting point for detention.
We call upon our Congressional leaders to speak out immediately against this bill and to oppose the denial of basic human rights and torture by any name. We call upon our fellow citizens to stand firmly, speak loudly, and act boldly to uphold the moral character of our nation.
The scriptures of many traditions offer a version of the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This principle is the moral guide for the lives of both individuals and nations. Everything we believe in is on the line.