Beliefnet News

WASHINGTON (RNS) Religious leaders from the U.S. Catholic bishops to evangelical human rights advocates have applauded President Obama’s executive order that essentially ends torture of detainees held by the U.S. government.
On Thursday (Jan. 22), his second full day in office, the president signed an executive order on “ensuring lawful interrogations” to “promote the safe, lawful and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody.”
From his Oval Office desk, Obama said: “We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture.”
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which had requested that Obama act on banning torture in the first day of his administration, praised the new policy.
“He has rejected the use of torture as an interrogation technique and allowed the United States to again find its moral bearing,” said Linda Gustitus, president of the organization.
David Gushee, president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, said the order demonstrates Obama’s concerns about just foreign policy.
“The president has implicitly but clearly recognized today that the aberrant detainee and interrogation policies of the last seven years in fact damaged our national security, harmed our foreign policy interests, and violated core principles of justice,” he said.
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’
international justice committee, called the order a step to preserve human dignity that improves America’s standing in the world.
“A ban on torture says much about us — who we are, what we believe about human life and dignity, and how we act as a nation,” he said.
In a press briefing after the signing of the order, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said “the president believes that torture is wrong. And we’ve taken steps today to make sure that those beliefs are upheld as it relates to detainees and interrogations.”
The president also signed an order stating that the U.S. detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be closed within a year.
Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has sought its closure for years, applauded Obama for ending “shameful practices.” Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Actions Center of Reform Judaism, said the order “gives us hope that we are on a path to restoring principles of justice that have been set aside for far too long.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus