The Question of Torture: Open letter to Alberto Gonzales

More than 200 American religious leaders, 12/23/2004

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An Open Letter to Alberto R. Gonzale
Hon. Alberto R. Gonzale
Counsel to the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. Gonzales,

We, the undersigned religious leaders, greet your nomination to be Attorney General of the United States with grave concern.

As a self-professed evangelical Christian, you surely know that all people are created in the image of God. You see it as a moral imperative to treat each human being with reverence and dignity. We invite you to affirm with us that we are all are made in the image of God every human being. We invite you to acknowledge that no legal category created by mere mortals can revoke that status. You understand that torture — the deliberate effort to undermine human dignity — is a grave sin and affront to God. You would not deny that the systemic use of torture on prisoners at Abu Ghraib was fundamentally immoral, as is the deliberate rendering of any detainee to authorities likely to commit torture.

We urge you to declare that any attempt to undermine international standards on torture, renditions, or habeas corpus is not only wrong but sinful. We are concerned that as White House counsel you have shown a troubling disregard for international laws against torture, for the legal rights of suspected "enemy combatants," and for the adverse consequences your decisions have had at home and abroad.

How could you have written a series of legal memos that disrespected international law and invited these abuses? How could you have justified the use of torture and disavowed protections for prisoners of war? How could you have referred to the Geneva Conventions as quaint and obsolete. We fear that your legal judgments have paved the way to torture and abuse.

We therefore call upon you
To denounce the use of torture under any circumstances;
To affirm, with the Supreme Court, that it is unconstitutional to imprison anyone designated as an "enemy combatant" for months without access to lawyers or the right to challenge their detentions in court;
To affirm the binding legality of the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war;
And to reject the practice of "extraordinary rendition," at home and abroad, by which terrorists suspects are sent to countries that practice torture for interrogation.

We believe, as you do, that the United States must be an example of moral leadership in the world community. However, the events at Abu Ghraib have gravely compromised Americas moral authority. We ask that you commit yourself as Attorney General to repairing that damage by articulating and enforcing legal policies that reject the use of torture, embrace and advance standards of international law, and honor the dignity of all of Gods creation.

With prayers for wisdom and grace,
[Affiliations noted for identification only]

Dr. George Hunsinger, Church Folks for a Better America
Joseph C. Hough, Jr., President, Union Theological Seminary
Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, Aux. Bishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit
C. Rene Padilla
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center
Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite, President, Chicago Theological Seminary
Jim Wallis, Editor, Sojourner
Rev. Timothy McDonald, African Amer. Ministers Council & First Iconium Baptist
Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB
The Rev. John E. Denaro, Episcopal Migration Ministrie
James H. Cone, Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Romal Tune, African American Ministers Council
Iftekhar Hussain, Secretary General, American Muslim Society of the Tristate Area
The Rev. Julio Torre
The Rev. Frank Morales, St. Marks Church
Glen Stassen, Fuller Theological Seminary
Dr. Rubn Rosario Rodrguez, St. Louis University
Rev. Peter Laarman, Progressive Christians Uniting
Dr. Mary E. Hunt, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual
Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, Director, Faith Voices Institute and Lift Every Voice!
Stanley Hauerwas, The Divinity School of Duke University
Dave Robinson, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA
Pastor Amaury Tan-Santos, American Baptist Churche
Charles Rooney, Catholics for the Common Good
Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Temple Shalom
Rev. Steven C. Baines, People For the American Way Foundation
Rabbi Steven B. Jacobs
William Werpehowski, Center for Peace and Justice Education, Villanova University
Elsie McKee, Ph.D., Archibald Alexander Professor of Reformation Studies and the History of Worship, Princeton Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Daniel Meeter, Pastor, Old First Reformed Church, Brooklyn, NY
Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, Westmont College
Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, The Divinity School, Vanderbilt University
The Rev. Dr. Christian T. Iosso, Scarborough Presbyterian Church
Rev. Kenneth Samual, Victory Church, Atlanta, GA
Rev. Theophlus Caviness, Greater Abyssinia, Cleveland, OH
Rev. A.W. Howard, Baltimore, MD
Rev. Violete Dease, Abyssinian Baptist, Harlem, NY
Rev. Robert Shine, Baracha Baptist, Philadelphia, PA
Rev. Clarence Pemberton, New Hope Baptist, Philadelphia, PA
Rev. James Sampson, First Mount Zion, Jacksonville, FL
Rev. Michael Harrison, Union Baptist, Youngstown, OH
Rev. Michael Pfleger, St. Sabina, Chicago, IL
Rev. Olen Arrington, Second Baptist, Kenosha, WI
J. Ross Wagner, Princeton Theological Seminary
Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. John McEntyre, PCUSA
The Rev. C. Clifton Black, Dept. of Biblical Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary
Barbara Levatich
Geffrey B. Kelly, La Salle University
Robert DeFina, Villanova University
Prof. Ellen Charry Princeton Theological Seminary
Rev. Bryan Langlands, St. Luke UMC, Sanford, NC
E. Glenn Hinson, Professor Emeritus, Baptist Theological Seminary
Rev. Muriel Burrows, Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church
Anne Gibbons, Associate Chaplain and Director of SERVE, Lynchburg College
The Rev. Robert Moore, Coalition for Peace Action & Peace Action Education Fund
The Rev. Robert L. Livingston. United Church of Christ
Rev. Patricia Daley
William Stacy Johnson, Princeton Theological Seminary
Rev. Douglas King
Dr. Alexander J. McKelway
Rev. James M. Collie, Presbytery of Santa Fe
Rev. Theresa F. Latini
The Rev. Fleming Rutledge
Todd Cioffi, Princeton Seminary
Jacqueline Lapsley, Princeton Seminary
Brian K. Blount, Princeton Theological Seminary
Dr. Deborah van Deusen Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. Laura Delaplain (UMC)
Catherine Keller, Theological School of Drew University
The Rev. Dr. Gary Wehrwein
Ftr. Lawrence H. Kaiser
Victoria J. Furio
Sr. Betty Obal, SL, UN NGO Representative, Loretto Community
Rev. Gloria H. Albrecht, Ph.D. (Presbyterian Church, USA)
Rabbi Shirley Idelson, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Sally Osmer, Director at The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton
Cherith Fee Nordling, Director of Christian Formation, Calvin College
Rev. Richard Broderick
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assoc. (Past President)
Rev. Ann Marie Coleman, Co-Senior Minister of University Church
Rev. Don Coleman, Co-Senior Minister of University Church
The Rev. Lisa Keppeler
(The Rev.) Geo. Anthony Hoeltzel
The Rev. Dr. Frank J. Alagna
The Rev. Dr. Peregrine L. Murphy
The Rev. Elizabeth G. Maxwell, Church of the Holy Apostle
The Rev. Ralph E Fogg
The Rev. Carol R. Fox
The Rev. Chloe Breyer, St. Mary's Manhattanville
Lois Malcolm, Luther Seminary
The Reverend Canon Brady J. Vardemann, Episcopal Diocese of Montana
Dr. Mark S. Burrows, Andover Newton Theological School
Dr. Barbara DeConcini, American Academy of Religion
Rev. Vicky A. Fleming
The Reverend K. Dennis Winslow, St. Peter's Episcopal Church
Rabbi Nancy Flam, Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Rev. Dr. Betty Jane Bailey
Rev. Dr. J. Martin Bailey
Kathryn L. Johnson, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Rev. Joan LaLibert, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church
The Rev. Barbara J. Haddon, Pastor First Presbyterian Church
Rev. Donald F. Hanchon
Rev. Paul Feuerstein
The Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker, Starr King School for the Ministry
John Cobb, Claremont School of Theology (Emeritus)
Matthew Freeman, Assistant Minister, Asbury United Methodist Church
Rev. Jophn Soderberg
Rev. Dave Weissbard, Senior Minister, The Unitarian Universalist Church
Walter Lowe, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
Dr. Frederick R. Trost, Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ
Sarah Craig Freeman, Assistant Minister at Asbury United Methodist Church
Bonnie Jones Shinneman
Bishop Charles Wesley Jordan
The Rev. Prof. Harold R. Bronk, Jr., Grace Episcopal Church
The Rev. Chuck Kramer
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, The Shefa Fund
Rev. Dawson Tunnell
Frank Kromkowski
Bill Wylie-Kellermann, Graduate Theological Urban Studies, Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education
Daniel L. Migliore, Princeton Theological Seminary
Suzie Armstrong, Vice President, The Interfaith Alliance
Rev. Dr. Amy Laura Hall
Professor, Duke University Divinity School
Jason Byassee, Assistant Editor, Christian Century
Creston Davis, Fellow of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
David W. Reid, Publisher, Vital Theology
Jason Byassee, Assistant Editor, Christian Century
Scott Bader-Saye, Dept. of Theology/Religious Studies, University of Scranton
Dr. Brigid Curtin Frein, Department of Theology, University of Scranton
Joel James Shuman, Department of Theology, King's College
Dr. R. David Kaylor, Davidson College (emeritus)
Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
Deanna A. Thompson, Ph.D., Chair & Associate Professor of Religion, Hamline University
Richard Fenn
The Rev. Joicy Becker-Richards, Director of Educational Media, Princeton Theological Seminary
Richard V. Pierard, Stephen Phillips Professor of History, Gordon College
Rabbi Alana Suskin, Congregation Adas Israel
Rev. Dr. James E. Fitzgerald, Minister for Mission and Social Justice, The Riverside Church
Sondra Wheeler, Martha Ashby Carr Professor of Christian Ethics, Wesley Theological Seminary
Rev. Brenda Bartella Peterson
Dr. George F. Regas, The Regas Institute
Dr. Charles Hunter, Presbyterian Minister, Parish Associate at the Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texa
Charles Raynal, Director of Advanced Studies, Columbia Theological Seminary
Rev. Victor Aloyo, Jr.,Director of Vocations, Princeton Theological Seminary
Mark A. Chancey, Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University
The Rev. Gary R. Weaver
Julie M. Hill
Rabbi Brian Walt, Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America
Creston Davis, Fellow of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Scott R. Gansl, president, World Congress of GLBT Jewish Organisations: Keshet Ga'ava
Rabbi Dr. Andrew Vogel Ettin, Wake Forest University and Temple Israel
Dr. S.M. Ghazanfar, Professor of Economics University of Idaho
Tony Kushner
Alicia Ostriker
Rabbi Suzanne Griffel
Rabbi Laura Geller, Los Angele
Rabbi Douglas E. Krantz
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
Dr. A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Africana Islamic Institute
Dana Regan, First Unitarian Church of Portland, OR
Rev. Dr. William G. Brockman
Mohammed Kaiseruddin, President, Muslim Community Center, Chicago
Bob Morri
Therese M. Becker, Department of Spiritual Care University of Chicago Hospital
Rabbi Neil Kominsky, Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley
Helga Scow Stern
Chuck Currie, United Church of Christ Seminarian, Central Pacific Conference UCC
Marshall L. Meadors, Jr. Bishop in Residence Candler School of Theology Emory University
Rabbi Avi Winokur, Society Hill Synagogue
Rabbi Phyllis Berman, Riverside Language Program
Dr. Nan Gefen, President, Chochmat HaLev
Rabbi Jonathan Omer-Man, Berkeley, CA
Donald W. Shriver, President Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary, New York
Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, Executive Director Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayeinu/Voices of Our Live
Rev. Jay R. Newlin, OSL, Pastor Jenkintown United Methodist Church
Rev. Melody C. Porter, First United Methodist Church of Germantown
Ruth Messinger
Anne Ewing
The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, Dean Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbinic Chair, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Rabbi Hillel Cohn
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer, Claremont, California
Rabbi Howard A. Cohen, Congregation Beth El
The Rev. Meg A. Riley, Unitarian Universalist Association
Rev. David Wesley Brown
Dr. Tarunjit Singh, Secretary General World Sikh Council - America Region
Dr. S. Huw Anwyl, Senior Minister & CEO Shepherd of the Hills Church
Rev. Dexter Lanctot
The Rev. James F. McIntire, MDiv, JD, The United Methodist Church of Bala Cynwyd
Mahdi Bray, Executive Director Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
Eric Mount, Centre College (Rodes Professor Religion Emeritus)
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, The Interfaith Alliance
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Sound Vision Foundation
Rev. Robert G. Coombe Pastor: Union United Methodist Church
Rabbi Dennis Beck-Berman Past President, OHALAH: Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal
Elizabeth Memel, Ojai, CA
Rabbi Michael Lerner, The TIKKUN Community
Rev. Dr. Albert M. Pennybacker, Chair/CEO, Clergy and Laity Network
Haim Dov Beliak
The Very Rev. Dr. Ann J. Broomell, Dean Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Rev. Susan Cole
Michael Kinnamon The Allen and Dottie Miller Professor of Mission and Peace, Eden Theological Seminary
Dr. Juanita Jartu Jolly, Agape Christian Tabernacle
Rev. Charlene F. Gaspar, Gladwyne United Methodist Church
Rabbi Laurence L. Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim Magazine
Rev. Al Krass, Philadelphia Area Interfaith Peace Network
The Rev. Patricia Pearce
Paul H. Sherry
Rev. Kaye Edwards, Director of Family and Children's Ministries, Disciples of Christ

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