I’ve been amazed at how little torture is spoken of in the nation’s churches - at least many of the churches I have reported on. I got some refreshing news yesterday that this coming weekend, 275 houses of worship around the country will be hoisting black-and-white banners with slogans such “Torture is wrong” and “Torture is a moral issue.”
Twenty-one of these congregations, which include one synagogue, are in the Washington area. Most of these organizations are Unitarian, Episcopal, Quaker or Presbyterian. While covering the papal visit in New York in April, I saw Nat Hentoff’s April 16 column in the Village Voice calling CIA torture “our very own axis of evil” and detailing the horrors endured by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and at a CIA “black site” in Afghanistan. T
his “dark side” of our war on terror, he wrote, includes not a few atrocities: holding prisoners’ heads under water; administering electric shocks, suspending people upside down, keeping them in solitary confinement for months, you name it. I’d always thought America stood for decency; that Americans don’t torture people no matter what; that there is no moral reason for torture - ever. My opinions on the matter were firmed up more than 10 years ago when I interviewed Sister Dianna Ortiz, an Ursuline nun who was tortured and raped in Guatemala. There is not room enough in this blog for the moral reasons as to why torture debases a society and eventually calls down divine judgment. The biggest silence on this issue has come from evangelical Christians. One exception is this 2006 essay “Five Reasons Why Torture is Always Wrong” in Christianity Today.
This anti-torture campaign reminds me of the signs synagogues posted outside their doors during the refusenik campaigns in the 1970s. Eventually, they were effective.
The little girl in this photo is Chloe Lanyi Lari, standing outside St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, which is right next to the Washington Cathedral. Jean Athey took the photo.
— Julia Duin, assistant national editor/religion, The Washington Times