WASHINGTON – Hundreds of churches located in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will display an anti-torture banner during the month of June to voice their opposition to U.S.-sponsored torture, announced a religious group on Thursday.
The "Banners Across America" initiative, organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, is taking place in conjunction with other interfaith public witnessing during Torture Awareness Month in June.
According to organizers, 298 congregations – including Jewish congregations, Buddhist temples, and Muslim mosques – have committed to displaying the large, black-and-white vinyl banners with the anti-torture messages: "Torture is Wrong" and "Torture is a Moral Issue," as of Thursday afternoon.
"We are thrilled that almost 300 congregations have made a significant and courageous witness in their community by displaying an anti-torture banner on the exterior of their building," said NRCAT executive director the Rev. Richard Killmer during a teleconference Thursday.
"In a public way these congregations are stating clearly that torture is always wrong – without any exceptions," he commented. "These powerful witnesses may hasten the day when we see the end of U.S.-sponsored torture."
The campaign's goals are to: stop the use of torture techniques by the CIA, close secret prisons, stop rendition for torture, and hold the U.S. government accountable for its torture activities. The NRCAT calls for a Select Committee of Congress to investigate all aspects of U.S.-sponsored torture post-9/11.
"Torture is not a political issue," said NRCAT president Linda Gustitus. "Whether you're for or against torture shouldn't depend upon whether you're for or against the President, the war or a particular party. Torture is a moral issue. It is immoral to use torture, and it is immoral to condone it – affirmatively or silently. Torture destroys the very soul of our nation and it must be stopped."
Twenty-seven Jewish congregations have joined the banner project, Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster of Rabbis for Human Rights North America noted as he highlighted the historical significance of the Jewish community opposing torture.
"As a community who has historically been a victim of torture and oppression, we are compelled by our values to identify with the plight of the stranger and work to ensure k'vod habriot, the dignity of every human being," said Kahn-Troster.
"Torture denies that every person is created b'tzelem elohim, in the image of God. The synagogues hanging the banner are sending a message to our government that Jews regard torture as an affront to their Jewish values."