Evangelical Christians Attack Use of Torture by US


Richard Moore

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    Evangelical Christians Attack Use of Torture by US
    By Ed Pilkington
    The Guardian UK
    Tuesday 13 March 2007

The uncoupling of American evangelism from the administration of George Bush 
gathered pace yesterday when one of the largest national umbrella groups of 
socially conservative Christians issued a statement critical of US policy 
towards detainees and repudiating torture as a tactic in the war on terror.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents about 45,000 
churches across America, endorsed a declaration against torture drafted by 17 
evangelical scholars. The authors, who call themselves Evangelicals for Human 
Rights and campaign for "zero tolerance" on torture, say that the US 
administration has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally 
permissible" in the treatment of detainees.

"Tragically, documented cases of torture and inhumane and cruel behaviour have 
occurred at various sites in the war on terror, and current law opens procedural
loopholes for more to continue," the NAE said last night.

The strong alliance between Christian evangelicals and Mr Bush, an important key
to his electoral successes, has been tested in recent months with the Mark Foley
scandal over his attraction towards male teenage pages in Congress, and 
perceived corruption in parts of the Republican party. One in three white 
evangelicals voted for Democratic candidates in last November's mid-term 
elections, a rise on the 2004 presidential elections.

But Christian criticism has tended to come from the right of the Bush 
administration. Yesterday's statement on torture suggested a new determination 
on the part of the evangelical churches to detach themselves from the Republican
party and stake their independence - even if it is from a position more 
traditionally associated with the left.

A leading figure within the NAE, Rev Richard Cizik, told the Associated Press 
that the statement condemning torture was not intended as a criticism of the 
Bush administration. But he added: "There is a perception out there in the 
Middle East that we're willing to accept any action in order to fight this war 
against terrorism. We are the conservatives - let there be no mistake on that - 
who wholeheartedly support the war against terror, but that does not mean by any
means necessary."

The document on human rights quotes the Bible, Pope John Paul II and Elie Wiesel
among other authorities. It particularly condemns the indefinite detention of 
suspects without trial.

"As American Christians, we are above all motivated by a desire that our 
nation's actions would be consistent with foundational Christian moral norms," 
the document says. "We believe that a scrupulous commitment to human rights, 
among which is the right not to be tortured, is one of these Christian moral 

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