A new poll finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.
The poll released Thursday, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57% of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.
But when asked if they agree that “the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers,” the percentage who said torture was rarely or never justified rose to 52%.
“Presenting people with this argument and identifying with the golden rule really does engage a different part of people’s psyche and a part of their heart, their soul, and really does shift their views on torture,” said Robert Jones, president of Public Religion Research, which was commissioned to conduct the poll.
The findings of this poll, which did not define torture, compared to a Pew Research Center poll from February that found that 48% of the general public think torture can be justified.
The new poll found that 44% of white Southern evangelicals rely on life experiences and common sense to determine their views about torture. A lower percentage, 28%, said they relied on Christian teachings or beliefs.
The poll was released on the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and comes after several religious groups have joined a public campaign to oppose the use of torture in interrogating suspected terrorists.
Results were unveiled during the National Summit on Torture at Mercer in Atlanta, which was co-sponsored by Evangelicals for Human Rights.
David Gushee, a Christian ethics professor at Mercer and the president of the evangelical group, said the poll numbers should tell leaders, including presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain, who oppose torture that people can change their minds about this issue if it is discussed from a moral standpoint.
“Opinion on this question is movable,” he said.
Pollsters also found that 53% of white Southern evangelicals believe the government uses torture in its anti-terrorism campaign, despite claims by government officials to the contrary. About one-third, or 32%, said the government does not use torture as a matter of policy.
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107 National Faith Leaders Urge Next Congress and President to Make Human Rights and Gulf Coast Rebuilding a Priority
CONTACT: Jeffrey Buchanan, RFK Center 202-257-9048 firstname.lastname@example.org
September 15, 2008
TELECONFERENCE TODAY AT NOON
Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim Leaders Call for Moral Response to Hurricanes
Rebuilding and Human Rights are National Moral Priority
(September 15, 2008) â€“ Today, 107 leading religious officials â€“ including, Rev. Richard Cizik, National Association of Evangelicals; Richard Stearns, President, World Vision; Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, National Council of Churches; Dr. Ingrid Matterson, Islamic Society of North America; Fr. Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA; Rev. David Beckmann, Bread for the World; and Rev. Jim Wallis, Sojourners â€“ are calling for not just a charitable response but bi-partisan resident-led federal solutions helping families. Theyâ€™ll discuss a letter sent today to Senators John McCain and Barack Obama and members of Congress addressing the crisis.
What: Media Teleconference: 107 National Faith Leaders Urge Next Congress and President to Make Human Rights and Gulf Coast Rebuilding a Priority
When: Monday September 15th, 12:00pm ET
How: Members of the working press, please RSVP to email@example.com
Teleconference Call in: (866) 443-5810 Conference ID: 64628175
Moderator: Stephen Bradberry, National Campaign Coordinator, ACORN, New Orleans, LA
Rev. Alfred Carter, President, Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing, Thibodaux, LA
Julie Kulinski, Director, Women in Construction, Moore Community House, Biloxi, MS
Dr. Frederick Douglas Haynes III, Senior Pastor, Friendship-West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX
Sr. Simone Campbell, Director, NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rev. Dr. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., Executive Director, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Hadar Susskind, Director, Washington Office, Jewish Council on Public Affairs
Rev. Michael Livingston, Co-Chair, National Council of Churches Special Commission on the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast
Background: Three years after the current administration first promised to rebuild the region devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the slow pace of recovery and recent devastation of hurricanes Gustav and Ike have created a moral crisis in the Gulf Coast. The collapse of local institutions, homelessness, internal displacement, poverty, abusive labor practices and environmental degradation in the Gulf Coast demands a powerful response from people of faith and bi-partisan resident-led federal solutions helping families return and participate in rebuilding their communities, creating living wage jobs, restoring the coastal wetland and ensuring human rights in the Gulf Coast region a national priority.
The Gulf Coast Civic Works Campaign is a nonpartisan partnership of community, faith, environmental, student, and human rights organizations in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi and their national allies advocating for federal legislation based on HR 4048, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act and urging national leaders to make creating jobs, rebuilding infrastructure and affordable housing, and restoring natural flood protection along the Gulf Coast a national priority.
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Poll memo available here
(ATLANTA) — Results of a new poll on Southern Evangelicalsâ€™ attitudes toward torture were released at a press conference on September 11, at 10:45 am. The press conference was held at Mercer Universityâ€™s Atlanta campus during the opening day of A National Summit on Torture, and streamed live over the Internet.
Sponsored by Mercer University and Faith in Public Life and conducted by Public Religion Research, the poll is the first major survey of Southern Evangelicals on the issue of torture.
Among the key findings:
â€¢ While a majority of white evangelical Christians in the South think that torture is often or sometimes justified, they are significantly more likely to oppose torture if they rely on Christian teachings or beliefs to form their views on the issue.
â€¢ A majority of white evangelical Christians in the South agree with the Golden Rule argument against tortureâ€”that the U.S. government should not use methods against our enemies that we would not want used on American soldiers.
Read the poll memo here. The results of the survey are based on telephone interviews with 600 white evangelical Christians in the South conducted under the direction of Opinion Access Corp. August 14-22.
WHEN: Thursday, September 11, at 10:45 am
WHO: Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, Mercer University and President, Evangelicals for Human Rights
Tyler Wigg Stevenson, Director, Two Futures Project, a nuclear disarmament initiative centered around
Dr. Robert Jones, President, Public Religion Research
Moderated by: Katie Paris, Director of Communications Strategy, Faith in Public Life
WHERE: LIVE STREAM: The press conference was streamed live over the Internet and the video is available at http://events.thefaithlab.com/index2.html.
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View the ad here.
FaithfulAmerica.org, an online community of more than 80,000 of people of faith, will run ads this Sunday thanking community organizers of the past, present and future. Last week, in St. Paul and then Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin remarked that â€œa small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.â€ FaithfulAmerica.orgâ€™s ads will run in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. You can view the ad here.
FaithfulAmerica.org members made contributions to run the ads in response to an email sent Friday evening. â€œThis is not a partisan issue,â€ the email stated. â€œFaith-based community organizing does not pit Republicans against Democrats, but rather brings people together to improve their communities. Our faiths call us to walk humbly and work for justice, and organizers at the grassroots level do just that. It is worthy of praise, not punchlines.â€
Last week, Faithful America circulated statements from faith-based community organizing leaders about the â€œactual responsibilitiesâ€ of community organizers and their tremendous impact every day on the lives of millions of Americans.
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FPL Poll Spot: http://www.faithinpubliclife.org/polls/
September 8, 2008
Faith in Public Life today launched FPL Poll Spot, the most comprehensive database of recent of faith and politics polls online. The searchable database includes polls released since 2006 that surveyed specific religious groups or significantly focused on religion.
FPL Poll Spot features direct links and summaries of findings for more than 70 polls sponsored by major news networks and publications, research institutions such as Pew Research Center, Barna Group, and Gallup, and issue or constituency-based organizations.
The polls in the database are organized and searchable by year, religious affiliation, and category. Categories include issues, party affiliation, the presidential race, and religion in public life.
FPL Poll Spot debuts at a dynamic moment at the intersection of faith and politics. People of faith are re-evaluating their issue priorities, political allegiances and the role religion should play in public life. This resource will help users find data that explores these trends.
In addition to FPL Poll Spot, Faith in Public Life distributes Faith in Public Life Daily News, a roundup of the top faith and politics news delivered each weekday to subscribersâ€™ email inboxes.
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Faith in Public Life is dedicated to transforming the values debate by increasing the visibility of faith leaders dedicated to justice, compassion and the common good. Faith in Public Life is a nonpartisan, nonprofit 501(c) (3) organization.
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