The struggle against torture and cruel treatment of prisoners by the U.S. received a major boost this week. In its recently concluded meeting, the National Association of Evangelicals board of directors last weekend endorsed an important new statement – An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture: Human Rights in an Age of Terror.
The statement begins:
From a Christian perspective, every human life is sacred. As evangelical Christians, recognition of this transcendent moral dignity is non-negotiable in every area of life, including our assessment of public policies. This commitment has been tested in the war on terror, as a public debate has occurred over the moral legitimacy of torture and of cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees held by our nation in the current conflict. We write this declaration to affirm our support for detainee human rights and our opposition to any resort to torture.
Then follow sections on the scriptural grounding, human rights, the ethical implications of human rights, and international law and treaties regarding human rights. The statement was drafted by a group of evangelical ethicists, theologians, and pastors, and is carefully researched and coherently argued. Its conclusion is four fundamental declarations:
(a) We renounce the use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by any branch of our government (or any other government)—even in the current circumstance of a war between the United States and various radical terrorist groups.
(b) We call for the extension of basic human rights and procedural protections to all persons held in United States custody now or in the future, wherever and by whomever they are held.
(c) We call for every agency of the United States government to join with the United States military and to state publicly its commitment to the terms of the Geneva Conventions related to the treatment of prisoners, especially Common Article 3.
(d) We call for the legislative or judicial reversal of those executive and legislative provisions that violate the moral and legal standards articulated in this declaration.
A new Web site has been launched, Evangelicals for Human Rights. It seeks to “to reaffirm the centrality of human rights as an unshakable biblical obligation fundamental to an evangelical Christian social and moral vision.” The site provides resources for churches and organizations, current legislation on torture, and news developments.