A Baptist ethicist urged “values voters” who care about morality and believe in the sanctity of human life to hold lawmakers accountable for mistreatment of war on terror detainees during a two-day hearing Nov. 30-Dec. 1 looking into one state’s role in a controversial CIA torture program used after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“It is past time for evangelical Christians to remind our government and our society of perennial moral values, which also happen to be international and domestic laws,” David Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., said in written testimony to the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.
“As Christians we care about moral values, and we seek to vote on the basis of such values,” said Gushee, widely regarded as one of the leading moral voices on religious ethics and torture.
“We care deeply about human rights violations around the world,” Gushee said in a paper read in his absence due to unexpected family obligations. “Now it is time to raise our voices and say an unequivocal no to torture, a practice which has no place in our society and violates our most cherished moral convictions.”
The North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture, a nonprofit group, held two days of public hearings in Raleigh, N.C., to shine light on North Carolina’s role in the use of “torture taxis” — flights used to transport suspected terrorists to secret CIA “black site” prisons, where some of the detainees were tortured.
Various investigations have identified North Carolina-based Aero Contractors as a transport arm for the CIA in the early 2000s.
“It is imperative that Americans reject torture absolutely and without equivocation,” Gushee told the 11-member commission. “Christian faith should help, if it is rightly understood and not swept aside by wartime passions or our fear of the next terrorist attack.”
Gushee, lead author of the Evangelical Declaration Against Torture adopted by the National Association of Evangelicals in 2007, said from a Christian perspective, torture is always wrong. It violates the dignity of human beings and mistreats the vulnerable. Authorizing torture puts too much trust in the government, he said, dehumanizes the torturer and erodes the culture of the nation that uses it.
Despite all that, Gushee said, among white evangelicals the absolute rejection of torture remains a minority view.
“I believe that this represents not the debatable nature of our moral claims, but the seductive power of a bad idea once insinuated into American public discourse.”
Other witnesses testified that in addition to being immoral, torture is ineffective in obtaining reliable information from terror suspects.
The commission plans to issue a public report with findings and recommendations in the middle of next year. Commissioners include Ben Boswell, senior minister of Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., and a contributing opinion writer to Baptist News Global.