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Faith Communities Speak Out Against Torture

Members of the faith community say torture is in direct conflict with their religious values. (Robin Kirk/Flickr)
Members of the faith community say torture is in direct conflict with their religious values. (Robin Kirk/Flickr)
January 16, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. — Despite efforts from politicians such as Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden to have a report on the CIA's torture program declassified, it is looking increasingly unlikely President Obama will open it up to the public in his last week in office.

Obama signed an executive order banning torture by the intelligence agency when he came into office, but there are now concerns that President-elect Donald Trump could bring the practice back - as he promised to do during his campaign.

Jan Elfers, executive director of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, said members of many faith communities have moral objections to the use of torture.

"If our new administration in any way supports torture, we will come out strongly as faith communities against the use of any kind of torture,” Elfers said. "It's antithetical to the fundamental values of our faith traditions."

Last week, on the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, members of Congress sent a letter to Obama urging him to declassify the torture report and shut down the detention center. In December, Obama decided to preserve the report in his presidential papers, exempting it from the Freedom of Information Act for 12 years.

In confirmation hearings last week, Trump's nominee for CIA director Mike Pompeo said he would refuse requests by the president-elect to bring back illegal torture methods.

Matt Hawthorne, policy director for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith coalition, said that Pompeo identifies as a Christian, and said he should keep his faith in mind when it comes to questions of torture.

"Jesus himself was a victim of state-sponsored torture,” Hawthorne said. “And to see Americans today, or at least our government, torture people is just beyond the pale from a faith perspective."

In 2015, Congress passed an amendment that banned the use of so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques,” and limited methods of interrogation to those contained in the Army Field Manual, which must be updated every three years.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR