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WASHINGTON (RNS) An interfaith coalition of religious groups has asked President-elect Barack Obama to sign an executive order banning torture on his first day in office.
Members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture sent Obama a letter with their request on Friday (Jan. 9) and met with members of his transition team on Wednesday.
“We believe it’s the singular most important act that he can take after being sworn in that will tell the nation and tell the world that the United States has changed,” said Linda Gustitus, president of the campaign, in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
The letter, which was signed by more than 30 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders, was accompanied by a list of principles the group hopes Obama will consider in an executive order. They seek a national standard for treatment and interrogation of prisoners, a ban on secret prisons, and adherence to “the golden rule” so U.S. interrogations include no methods that would not be acceptable for U.S. soldiers or civilians.
Leaders from a range of faiths said their traditions declare that torture is immoral and should not be condoned.
“The time is long past due for America to reclaim its moral foundation,” said the Rev. John Thomas, president and general minister of the United Church of Christ. “This is not just the change we can believe in. This is the change our beliefs demand.”
The campaign’s Web site includes a count-down clock until the inauguration, but it will be replaced with a clock marking time after Obama is sworn in if he does not sign an executive order during his first day in office.
“Our highest and best hope is that he will do that on the first day as a dramatic symbol to the world,” said Gustitus. “Should he do it within a month, will we still be grateful?
Absolutely, because he still will be sending a signal to the world that torture is over. But the opportunity to seize the moment upon taking office, we believe, is one that he should avail himself of.”
Separately, Witness Against Torture, a group led by Catholic activists, is spearheading a “Fast for Justice” in hopes that Obama will close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and end torture.
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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