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Faith groups mount campaign against torture

They're protesting Bush administration policies. But polls show Americans are split on the issue.

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As Congress and the Bush administration skirmish over still-secret interrogation techniques, American faith communities are mounting a national campaign to prohibit torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of US-held detainees.

More than 175 religious organizations have joined the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT). Their aim is to build a moral consensus among Americans on the issue and to bring government policies in line with US law and international norms.

"Religions of the world do agree on basic tenets about how people should treat each other because of the dignity of the human person," says the Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director. The group involves mainline and evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and other members.

The campaign has its work cut out for it. Polls since 2001 show great divergence and ambivalence in public attitudes toward the interrogation and treatment of alleged terrorists. And Congress so far has not convinced the administration to change course.

NRCAT worked for congressional passage of the 2008 intelligence bill, which required the Central Intelligence Agency and other agencies to conform to the Army Field Manual in their interrogations. The manual, revised in 2006 after the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, prohibits the use of waterboarding (simulated drowning), military dogs, beatings, and electric shocks, among other techniques.

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