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Does Religion Play A Role In How Pennsylvanians View Torture?

June 1, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA - A person's religious beliefs may take a back seat when it comes to their opinion about torture. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked people of various faiths if torturing a terror suspect is justified if important information can be gained from it. Six out of 10 evangelical Protestants and 46 percent of mainline Protestants approved of torture in this situation, as did just over half of the Catholics surveyed.

Pastor Don Green with Christian Associates in southwestern Pennsylvania says a person's house of worship is not necessarily the place to find a position on controversial issues like torture.

"A lot of clergy are timid when it comes to dealing with some of the contemporary issues that confront us."

The Pew Forum did not include other religious groups in the study because of small sample sizes. The survey found that those least in favor of using torture (roughly 40 percent of those polled) have no religious ties.

The Vatican has ratified a United Nations convention against torture, calling it "inadmissible and inhumane." Clergy from the Catholic and Protestant faiths will be in Washington, D.C., in June to speak out against torture and recognize June as Torture Awareness Month.

Green says part of the torture debate is born out of a world where media is instantaneous and ubiquitous.

"People pick and choose what parts of their belief system they want to emulate in their lives."

Green says many clergy are torn, not wanting to address issues during sermons that might ultimately drive members of their flock away.

"Sometimes people say, 'Pastor, I hear this in the news all the time, I don't want to hear about it on Sunday morning.'"

Additional information is available from the American Friends Services Committee, 1-412-586-6137.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA