Evangelicals, Ecumenicals Stand Against Torture

Evangelicals are joining hands with mainline Christians, Catholics, and Muslims once again to help shape government policies, this time in the area of torture.

Some 27 religious leaders, including Saddleback Church’s Rick Warren and the National Association of Evangelicals’ president Ted Haggard, have signed onto a statement urging the United States to “abolish torture now – without exceptions.”

The statement, published today in newspapers nationwide, marks the official launch of a new organization called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which was formed in response to the human rights abuse allegations at U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear,” the statement starts. “Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.”

Evangelicals are not known historically for working in inter-religious or ecumenical settings. However, in recent years, they have made unlikely alliances with Catholic, Muslim and mainline Christian groups for wider-ranging social purposes like environmental protection or poverty relief.

The anti-torture campaign may become another point of cooperation. It has received the support of liberal groups like the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and the United Church of Christ, as well as the Islamic Society of North America and the Union for Reformed Judaism.

Dr. Glen Stassen, Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary and another signatory, explained that torture is something every Christian – and especially evangelicals – should stand against.

“Evangelicals are Christ-centered – not that nobody else is, but we are – and the cross was humiliation and torture,” said Stassen.

According to the group’s website, signatories support a call on Congress and the President to remove ambiguities regarding torture by prohibiting the exemption form human rights standards of international law for any governmental arm and by preventing the existence of secret U.S. prisons around the world. They are also calling on the government to allow Red Cross access to detainees held oversees.

“We also call for an independent investigation of the severe human rights abuses at U.S. installations like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan,” the statement read.