National Religious Campaign Against Torture Urges Appointment of Special Counsel to Investigate CIA Interrogation Tapes

December 10, 2007, 1:26 pm | Posted by

(Washington) — The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a campaign of over 130 religious organizations working together to abolish U.S.-sponsored torture, sent the following letter today to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging him to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate allegations regarding the CIA’s destruction of videotapes and its use of “harsh” interrogation techniques.

December 10, 2007

The Honorable Michael Mukasey

Attorney General

United States Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Mukasey:

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), a campaign of over 130 religious organizations working together to abolish U.S.-sponsored torture, requests that you appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the destruction of the CIA videotapes that document the use of “harsh” interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists and whether these techniques violated U.S. and international law.

According to a New York Times article of December 7, 2007, several officials have said that “the tapes were destroyed in part because officers were concerned that video showing harsh interrogation methods could expose agency officials to legal risks.” Furthermore, there appears to be credible evidence that requests for the tapes by a federal court at the time such video tapes were intact may have been ignored by the CIA. These two allegations, if true, would be evidence of the use of illegal interrogation tactics by U.S. personnel and an effort to cover-up that fact.

These allegations raise serious concerns that must be fully and fairly addressed in order to retain the trust and confidence of the American people in our intelligence and justice systems.

A key point of controversy during your confirmation process involved your statement that one particular “harsh” interrogation technique (namely, waterboarding) was not necessarily torture. Also, it is possible that top Justice Department officials may have been involved in counseling the CIA about both the techniques used and the handling of the tapes. For these reasons, we believe it is necessary for you to appoint a Special Counsel, independent of the normal Justice Department chain of command, to conduct this investigation. We believe a Special Counsel is critical to achieve the confidence of the American people in the outcome of such an investigation.

NRCAT believes that torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved – policy-makers, perpetrators and victims – and it contradicts our nation’s most cherished values. We believe that any policies that permit torture and inhuman treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

We urge you to use your good offices to ensure that the public learns the truth behind these allegations and has confidence in the final outcome. We believe the appointment of a Special Counsel is necessary to accomplish that task.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President

Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

###

www.tortureisamoralissue.org

add a comment »

Christian Leaders Call for Ceasefire in Christmas Culture Wars

December 3, 2007, 2:48 pm | Posted by

Open Letter Urges Bill O’Reilly, Bill Donohue and John Gibson to Join a Campaign that focuses on the Common Good

Washington, DC – Catholic social justice leaders, priests, religious sisters and evangelical Christians want a “ceasefire in the Christmas culture wars.” These leaders are challenging Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and others who have lashed out against a so-called secular “War on Christmas” to join them in a new campaign that restores a focus on the common good during this holy season.

In an “Open Letter to Christmas Culture Warriors” (link to pdf: http://www.christmascampaign.org/ad-wt.pdf) to be published as an advertisement in the New York Post, Washington Times and National Catholic Reporter, the group says that outrage over some department stores using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” fails to address the profound moral challenges we face in confronting the threats to human dignity in our world.

“We believe the real assault on Christmas is how a season of peace, forgiveness and goodwill has been sidelined by a focus on excessive consumerism,” the letter states. “The powerful message Christ brings to the world is ‘good news for the poor.’ Instead, Christmas is being reduced to a corporate-sponsored holiday that idolizes commerce and materialism.”

The letter asks all readers to join the group’s new campaign at www.ChristmasCampaign.org, a website that not only promotes the letter, but also alternative Christmas giving programs. The open letter will be published in the Dec. 4 issue of the Washington Times and New York Post and in the Dec. 14 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.

Fox News commentator John Gibson’s 2005 book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse Than You Thought, denounced what he and other pundits describe as a secular agenda intent on destroying Christmas and driving religion from the public square. William Donohue, executive director of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has warned of “cultural fascists” taking over Christmas. Bill O’Reilly has made the “War on Christmas” a prominent seasonal feature of his popular Fox broadcast.

“Christmas marks a season of hope, peace and the light of justice illuminating the dark corners of our world,” said Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. “At a time when soldiers and innocent civilians are dying in a real war in Iraq and 37 million Americans live still in poverty we should be focusing on those moral scandals not having petty shouting matches on television about a supposed ‘secular conspiracy’ to subvert Christmas.”

“When we consider the true meaning of Christmas, its sacredness is not validated by prescribed greetings or slogans in department stores,” said Rev. Derrick Harkins, Senior Pastor of the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and a Board member of the evangelical humanitarian relief agency World Relief, “If we are truly serious about the importance of Christmas, we will remember that its message of love and hope was shared with disenfranchised shepherds first, which should prompt us to be far more concerned with how the season is shared in word and deed with the poor and hurting among us.”

add a comment »

Congressional, Religious Leaders Discuss Groundbreaking Abortion Initiative

November 8, 2007, 11:33 am | Posted by

**TELECONFERENCE TODAY AT 1:30 PM**

Washington – On Thursday, November 8, Third Way, along with Common Good Strategies and Faith in Public Life, will host a conference call for reporters on the topic of a new abortion initiative approved yesterday by House and Senate negotiators. The call will be headlined by Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), along with Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland Church and one-time President-Elect of the Christian Coalition, Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and CEO of Sojourners, and Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK.

The speakers on the call will discuss the inclusion of a “reducing the need for abortions” initiative in the Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill Conference Report, which was made public yesterday. This abortion reduction package contains many of the core provisions of the Reducing the Need for Abortions and Supporting Parents Act (H.R. 1074), sponsored by Representatives Ryan and DeLauro.

The congressional speakers, both of whom were conferees, will note that this signals a major change in direction for the Democratic Congress on abortion, in three principle ways:

– It explicitly highlights “the need for reducing abortions in America.”

– It emphasizes both prevention of unintended pregnancies and support for pregnant women and new families.

– It talks about new money to “encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term, and provide support for new parents who have economic difficulties.”

The Evangelical leaders will offer their support for this groundbreaking new direction.

WHAT: Press conference call on new congressional abortion initiative

WHO:

Rachel Laser, Third Way

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Congressman Tim Ryan

Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, Northland Church

Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Faith in Public Life

WHEN: Thursday, November 8, 2007

1:30 p.m.

CALL-IN #: 888-245-4141

Pin: #948978

###

add a comment »

Cleveland Clergy Declare Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone”

November 8, 2007, 11:30 am | Posted by

(Cleveland, Ohio) – As the 2008 campaign season gears up, We Believe Ohio, a statewide interfaith coalition of religious leaders, announced a campaign declaring Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone.” The group is circulating a petition calling on all candidates for public office to run clean, positive campaigns that focus on common good issues. Even before the campaign has kicked-off, the petition has gathered almost 1,000 signatures.

Press conferences were held with clergy in both Columbus and Cleveland. A statement of support from Gov. Ted Strickland thanking We Believe for “elevating political discourse in Ohio” was read at both.

“The momentum behind our petition shows that the people of Ohio hunger for political campaigns that reflect their values of honesty and fair play. We’re rising up to demonstrate that the people of Ohio want positive, informative campaigns that address issues that matter most to Ohioans,” said Rabbi Richard Block of The Temple-Tifereth Israel.

As people of faith, We Believe Ohio believes political campaign tactics and priorities are a moral and spiritual issue. This belief draws on the common values of the leaders’ diverse faiths.

“Making Ohio a Sleaze-Free Zone celebrates the diversity of opinion in the state and welcomes honest debate and civil disagreement. It marginalizes no one. It affirms an essential commandment of all faith traditions: ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness,’” said Rev. Dr. John Lentz of Forest Hill Presbyterian Church.

“Like all faiths, Islam teaches that instead of contesting against each other in mean spiritedness, man should strive to compete in doing righteousness. In that light, we call on those who aspire to political office to inspire the public’s trust and restore civility to our political discourse,” said Imam Abbas Ahmad of the First Cleveland Mosque.

We Believe Ohio’s petition calls on campaigns to promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans such as poverty, jobs, education and health care, and to reject the politics of character assassination and polarization.

“For too long we’ve had to sort through smear tactics and polarizing rhetoric to choose between the better of bad choices. We gather in a spirit of hope that campaigns will present us with a vision and values to vote for, rather than an enemy to vote against,” said Rev. Ken Chalker, First United Methodist Church.

We Believe Ohio is currently presenting the “Political Sleaze-Free Zone” petition to candidates and political parties. We Believe Ohio asks all citizens of Ohio to sign its petition calling for a “Political Sleaze-Free’’ state by going on-line to http://www.webelieveohio.org/noguttersignup.html.

Following is the text of the petition:

Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone

We, the undersigned, call on candidates for public office and all political parties to make the following commitment:

• We will positively promote what we stand for.

• We will refrain from negative and inflammatory attack ads.

• We will describe truthfully what we will do for the people of Ohio.

• We will not distort our opponents’ records and positions.

• We will exemplify transparency and responsibility in all campaign activities.

• We will denounce attacks by outside groups, and do everything possible to bring them to a halt.

• We will promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans, including poverty, jobs, education and health care.

• We will reject the politics of polarization, which focuses on deeply divisive issues and exploits them for partisan advantage.

www.webelieveohio.org

We are called as people of faith and loyal Americans to be united in dialogue and action to say:

YES to justice for all; NO to prosperity for only a few; YES to diverse religious expression; NO to self-righteous certainty; YES to the common good; NO to discrimination against any of God’s people; YES to the voice of religious traditions informing public policy; NO to crossing the lines that separate the institutions of Religion and Government.

###

add a comment »

Columbus Clergy Declare Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone”

November 8, 2007, 11:25 am | Posted by

(Columbus, Ohio) – As the 2008 campaign season gears up, We Believe Ohio, a statewide interfaith coalition of religious leaders, today announced a campaign declaring Ohio a “Political Sleaze-Free Zone.” The group is circulating a online petition calling on all candidates for public office to run clean, positive campaigns that focus on common good issues. Even before the campaign has kicked-off, the petition has gathered almost 1,000 signatures.

Press conferences were held with clergy in both Columbus and Cleveland. A statement of support from Gov. Ted Strickland thanking We Believe for “elevating political discourse in Ohio” was read at both.

“The momentum behind our petition shows that the people of Ohio hunger for political campaigns that reflect their values of honesty and fair play,” said Cantor Jack Chomsky of the Congregation Tifereth Israel. “Some will say that we are looking for a miracle. Who would work for miracles if not us? We embrace the idea that miracles happen every day.”

As people of faith, We Believe Ohio believes political campaign tactics and priorities are a moral and spiritual issue. This belief draws on the common values of the leaders’ diverse faiths.

“All of our faith traditions tell us that we shall not bear false witness. What more fundamental belief should guide our actions in the public square? If candidates bear false witness in their campaigns, it speaks volumes about the actions they will take in office. If they run campaigns with integrity, they will be able to serve people immediately, work with others, and be better public servants,” said Rev. Tim Ahrens of First Congregational Church.

Rev. Stephen Smith of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Rabbi Misha Zinkow of Temple Israel and Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin each spoke of how the campaign specifically reflects the values of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

We Believe Ohio’s petition calls on campaigns to promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans such as poverty, jobs, education and health care, and to reject the politics of character assassination and polarization.

“Rather than voting for a candidate based upon half truths or attack ads, as people of faith we should be compelled to vote for those candidates and issues that are concerned about the poor, the hungry, those who are mourning and the despised,” said Rev. Mark Diemer of Grace of God Lutheran Church.

We Believe Ohio is currently presenting the “Political Sleaze-Free Zone” petition to candidates and political parties. We Believe Ohio asks all citizens of Ohio to sign its petition calling for a “Political Sleaze-Free’’ state by going on-line to http://www.webelieveohio.org/noguttersignup.html.

Following is the text of the petition:

Declare Ohio a Political Sleaze-Free Zone

We, the undersigned, call on candidates for public office and all political parties to make the following commitment:

• We will positively promote what we stand for.

• We will refrain from negative and inflammatory attack ads.

• We will describe truthfully what we will do for the people of Ohio.

• We will not distort our opponents’ records and positions.

• We will exemplify transparency and responsibility in all campaign activities.

• We will denounce attacks by outside groups, and do everything possible to bring them to a halt.

• We will promote the common good by addressing issues critical to all Ohioans, including poverty, jobs, education and health care.

• We will reject the politics of polarization, which focuses on deeply divisive issues and exploits them for partisan advantage.

# # #

add a comment »