Faith leaders met with members of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team on Wednesday to express their strong desire for Obama to issue an executive order to end torture on the first day he takes office.
The delegation representing the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) reported that transition officials gave strong indication that an executive order on torture would be issued at some point, but did not commit to a specific timeline.
“We were pleased to hear it reiterated that President Obama rejects torture and believes it has no place in U.S. policy and practice,” said NRCAT president Linda Gustitus, in a statement. “But we also remain passionate about the need to issue the executive order on Day One. It is a message that must be delivered to the world as soon as President Obama takes office and we will be disappointed if it is not.”
Gustitus, however, said NRCAT will stand with Obama whenever he decides to ban torture.
NRCAT noted that the meeting coincided with the group’s “Countdown to End Torture: 10 Days of Prayer” campaign that began on Jan. 11. The campaign is designed to unite the religious community in a final push to help Obama understand how important the issue of ending torture is to them.
As part of the campaign, a countdown clock is featured on the NRCAT Web site that began running on Jan. 11 at 9 a.m. EST and will run until the same time on Jan. 21. NRCAT hopes Obama will sign an executive order by the time the clock hits 00:00:00:00.
If he does not, the clock will begin to count up to show “the hours Americans and the world will be waiting for the Obama administration to end the torture policies of the past.”
“All over the world people are looking this week for a clear and strong word that change has come, that religious values are not simply to be pandered to for votes, but are principles that underlie policy,” said the Rev. Dr. John Thomas, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ, at the press conference on Wednesday.
During the meeting with the transition team, NRCAT also delivered a letter signed by nearly three dozen faith leaders that urges Obama to reject the practice of torture in order to restore the nation’s moral standing in the world.
“While we represent a wide diversity of America’s faith traditions, we all believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human life,” the letter states. “Respect for the dignity of every person must serve as the foundation for security, justice and peace."
“Torture is incompatible with the tenets of our faiths and is contrary to international and U.S. law,” it argues.
The letter was signed by Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Baha’i leaders.