Southern Baptist agency declares ‘no room for torture’

The Southern Baptist Convention, the dominant religious voice of the South, has finally weighed in on the issue of waterboarding and other forms of torture.

Under no circumstances should they be permitted in this country.

The statement came through the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which is in charge of figuring out where the rubber of national politics meets the theological road.

Given the denomination’s influence on the religious conservatives who dominate the Republican party, the statement could have significant impact on public debate that continues to percolate.

Here’s what the commission has posted on its web site:

There is no room for torture as part of the United States’ intelligence-gathering process, Richard Land said today. He also said he believes the practice known as “waterboarding” is torture and, as such, is unethical.

Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said there is no circumstance in which torture should be permissible in interrogations by U.S. officials, even if the authorities believe a prisoner has information that might involve national security.

“I don’t agree with the belief that we should use any means necessary to extract information,” said Land. “I believe there are absolutes. There are things we must never do under any circumstances.

“For me the ultimate test is: Could I, in good conscience, do whatever I am authorizing or condoning others to do? If not, then I must oppose the action. If I could not waterboard someone—and I couldn’t—then I must oppose its practice.”

Land said he considers waterboarding to be torture because the definition of torture includes the determination of whether a procedure causes permanent physical harm, noting he is unable to “separate physical from psychological harm” in this instance. The practice contravenes an individual’s personhood and their humanity, he said.

“It violates everything we believe in as a country,” Land said, reflecting on the words in the Declaration of Independence: that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

“There are some things you should never do to another human being, no matter how horrific the things they have done. If you do so, you demean yourself to their level,” he said.

“Civilized countries should err on the side of caution. It does cost us something to play by different rules than our enemies, but it would cost us far more if we played by their rules,” Land concluded.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

77 comments Add your comment

Charlie

May 7th, 2009
10:31 am

Your second paragraph states: “Under no circumstances should (torture) be permitted in this country.” When I read that, I wondered if the Convention was leaving the door open for torture in other questions, but I find no such ambiguity in their actual statement. Am I missing something?

Keith

May 7th, 2009
10:33 am

Unbelievable! Make a terrorist prisoner temporarily uncomfortable and save thousands or millions of American lives, or don’t touch him and Americans die. Which is more compassionate? I guess when Jesus returns and kills the unbelivers fighting against him we should bring him up on war crimes charges?

Will Jones - Atlanta

May 7th, 2009
10:37 am

Good one for the Southern Baptists. Now if one of their guiding lights could bother reading “The New Pearl Harbor,” by a Christian theologian and scholar of proven integrity, PhD, Emeritus Professor David Ray Griffin, the South can lead The Nation back to the Path of Righteousness as was intended at Our Founding.

Here is the link to download a free copy of the sedulous proof that Bush and Cheney committed 9/11:
http://www.angelfire.com/biz/hankramey/The%20New%20Pearl%20Harbor.pdf

NB: Others Americans who believe in G-d, besides Baptists, should also go to the trouble. It is the civic duty of each who considers him or herself to be an American to pursue Truth and Justice.

Max Cleland dropped off the 9/11 Commission because it was fishy. This book proves him to have been on the side of G-d…as should the rest of America be. Those who pursue and support Treason and evil and injustice are Enemy of The People. We have no “lock” on posterity. Those in our society who treasonously pursue alien interests must be cajoled…upbraided…corrected…and if that fails to remedy the cancer…deported or extirpated as reason and justice require.

jcb

May 7th, 2009
10:41 am

Keith, Keith, that’s not the choice. And it’s not just making someone “temporarily uncomfortable.” What makes us Americans…please understand…what makes us Americans with a capital ‘A’ is what we believe in. If we believe in evil things like torture, we lose our selves. Pretty much the same deal with Christianity. You sacrifice what you believe in, you end up losing who you are in a misguided “battle” to preserve it. My sense of anyone’s understanding of Jesus is his mission is not to return to kill people. If you believe that, how much of his peaceful teachings are you sweeping away in the process?

Joe

May 7th, 2009
11:03 am

Torture, which is morally repugnant, is also not useful for gathering intelligence or strengthening national security. Why sully our national character and moral power by engaging in a barbaric practice that gets us nothing? The best interrogators have no need for physical measures. Col. Robin “Tin-Eye” Stephens, master interrogator of MI5 during the Second World War, said, “Never strike a man. It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise.”

In fact, humane treatment and effective breaking of a prisoner’s psychological resistance is the key to recruiting double agents. Desertion hurts worse than slaughter.

Copyleft

May 7th, 2009
11:06 am

How odd to see the Southern Baptist Convention behaving like Christians. There may be hope for them yet!

Bruno

May 7th, 2009
11:35 am

Speechless….now if we can only have them agree on equality

Bob

May 7th, 2009
11:42 am

The only flaw is Land’s arrogant test as to whether something is unethical or not. It’s not whether Richard Land would do it, it’s whether it is consistent with biblical principles. Land’s conscience is not God’s Law.

I am glad to see, however, that Land’s conscience is here informed by biblical principles, and so the denomination is well-served.

Torture is not acceptable, and Christians must stand clearly on this issue. That does not mean we do not wage war on our nation’s enemies and/or bring criminals to justice. It does mean we do not become criminals ourselves in so doing.

Bob

May 7th, 2009
11:45 am

Bruno–

I am quite sure (thought I don’t mean to speak for them) they would agree that all stand before God as sinners in need of grace. However, if you mean by “equality” that differences in rank and role are nonexistent, or that sin is to be celebrated as righteousness, that’s not only foreign to scripture, but is manifestly contrary to all experience.

GOP Lost in space then and now

May 7th, 2009
11:54 am

If you are a Christians and a believer Torture is wrong. Love your enemy is the word right out of the Bible.
And so manny people go to church every Sunday and still say it OK to torture. I say GOD is in control he bring the high low and bring the low high if you OBEY his word. Not the word of Rush, Hannity, or Fox network or any body else!!
I any of you gave it a thouth on why people of the world hate US? one thing I do know the CIA has been doing thing all over the world and all is not good and that is why some hate us!

John

May 7th, 2009
11:56 am

It’s about time we take religion out of Government and especially out of National Security. This country has a right to protect its citizens by “Any Means Necessary” and should not be criticized for doing so. Praying will not save us from terrorists!!!

John

May 7th, 2009
11:58 am

And to clarify — Torture techniques do in fact work.

[...] Jim Galloway over at Political Insider reports a reassuring decision from the Southern Baptist Convention: Torture is wrong, waterboarding is torture, and we should never ever do it. [...]

norman ravitch

May 7th, 2009
12:10 pm

The Southern Baptists are wrong about religion, about Jesus, and now about torture. I say, torture those terrorists, kill them, do whatever is needed.

DB, Gwinnettian

May 7th, 2009
12:20 pm

Torture techniques do in fact work.

Yes, they do a terrific job of eliciting false confessions. Like, say, if you want to create a phony connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden? Torture some brown feller until he tells you it exists, and boy howdy, it’s worked like a charm!

As for actual, useful information, not so much. Actually, not at all.

Kevin

May 7th, 2009
12:20 pm

I grew up Southern Baptist and I am still a devout Christian. I don’t know about this decision.
The CIA report said that every other method had been exhausted when interrogating Kalid Sheik Mohammed. It also said that after he was waterboarded, he gave up information that led to the prevention of another 9-11 style attack (airplanes flying into buildings) and the arrest of the entire cell planning it. Another thousand or more could have died.
Is It righteous to allow hundreds if not thousands of innocent people to be murdered in order to avoid waterboarding one of their would-be murderers?
When answering that, consider government’s ordained responsibilities which include protection of its citizens, maintaining order and providing a means within which the good in society can be upheld and evil thwarted.

Keith

May 7th, 2009
12:34 pm

If you were Harry Truman would you have dropped the two nukes on Japan killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians or would you have let hundreds of thousands of American GI’s perish during an invasion. It makes no difference whether a terrorist is pointing a gun at me or has information we need to save lives… he has attacked us and we have the right of self defence legally and scripturally.

NYTN

May 7th, 2009
12:40 pm

Brett

May 7th, 2009
12:42 pm

Whether torture works are not is questionable, but that doesn’t matter because it is besides the point:

There is an unfortunate side effect to both freedom and morality. That is by embracing those two things you do open yourself up to being less safe and less secure. Ben Franklin realized this when he stated “Those who would give up their freedoms for security deserve neither.”

Everyone is moral when it is in their best interest… what makes one moral is what they do when it isn’t in their interest to follow their standards of conduct.

[...] know when reading the OP-I wasn’t surprised….BUT…I’m wondering if after this: Southern Baptist agency declares ‘no room for torture’ | Political Insider Christians will turn their thoughts around…. one can only hope. Honestly I was shocked to read [...]

BDAtlanta

May 7th, 2009
12:44 pm

Will Jones at 10:37 writes: the South can lead The Nation back to the Path of Righteousness as was intended at Our Founding

I think we tried that route back in the 1860’s, led to a war, and the idea was thoroughly put down. You want to try again?

Jim

May 7th, 2009
12:55 pm

As a Southern Baptist I’ve been an admirer of Richard Land for several years. In my opinion water boarding is NOT torture (not that I care to experience it). I’m sure its very uncomfortable but I’m okay with that. Would Mr. Land forfeit a family member’s life in lieu of water boarding a terrorists? The terrorist suffers a day of being uncomfortable to prevent even one innocent from losing their life. I oppose torture, but this ain’t it. There are two issues here. Do we trust the people conducting the water boarding to do so appropriately (not THAT much) and is “the left” using this as one more issue to destroy our republic (they are).

Copyleft

May 7th, 2009
1:10 pm

Jim: You’re right that there are two different issues here–so why are you mixing them? On the one hand, you say “waterboarding isn’t torture”–but on the other, you say it doesn’t matter WHAT we do to a “terrorist” (or rather, suspected terrorist) if it saves innocent lives.

Which is it? If we need to do Whatever It Takes to Those Terrorist Scum, why worry about whether the techniques are brutal and illegal?

It’s also odd to see you accusing the left, which is trying to make the U.S. abide by its own stated laws and principles, somehow “trying to destroy our republic.” Once you sell out your founding principles, the republic’s already destroyed.

Adittohead

May 7th, 2009
1:12 pm

The way I read this…..Even if the INTEL gained saved 10K, or 20K American lives……WATERboarding is wrong…..

Adittohead

May 7th, 2009
1:15 pm

IS IT also TO KILL THE S.O.B. on the battlefield….WAS IT WRONG TO NUKE JAPANESE CIVILIANS IN WWII.

Saul Good

May 7th, 2009
1:15 pm

Keith, jesus is going to come back and KILL those that don’t believe in him?! Sounds like your bible is something written by the Taliban. Religious fanatics are exactly the same…it does not matter which religion we speak of. Talibangelical christians are just as wacko and crazy as fanatical muslims or fanatical jews…

do not resuscitate

May 7th, 2009
1:17 pm

I’m still not clear on the idea that waterboarding isn’t torture. Can someone explain to me why it isn’t deemed as such? And how did you come to this conclusion?

John

May 7th, 2009
1:19 pm

So I guess we should just ask the terrorists what their plans are?

John

May 7th, 2009
1:24 pm

BG,

You are the problem w/ society today. Stop listening to the right wing Christian fanatics and make your own decision. If torture saves American lives then the ends DEFINITELY meet the means. And do people really believe that other nations are not performing these same techniques?? I consider my life to be substantially more valuable than a terrorist’s or a suspected terrorist — which is why we should adopt a “By any means necessary” policy and stick with it. Those who have a problem can move.

Tom

May 7th, 2009
1:46 pm

I’m a Christian and I believe in torture and capital punishment. I am entitled to my opinion and if you don’t like it tough!!

Darin

May 7th, 2009
2:08 pm

Any person who believes torture is morally acceptable has no place calling him or herself a Christian. You are, perhaps, one of the many churchgoers who goes through the motions or religion for the sake of tradition and community, but you are incapable of being a true disciple of Christ with a favorable opinion of torture.

To believe otherwise makes you just as hypocritical as the Spanish Inquisition.

Tim

May 7th, 2009
2:12 pm

I was raised a Baptist and try to live my life by what they teach…….but the convention is dead wrong on this. If those Baptist leaders were to find themselves in a situation where they personally would have to make a call on whether to water board an informant or see their family die from a Nuke explosion….they would cuff them and pour the water themselves to get the type of info that would stop that explosion!

Doug

May 7th, 2009
2:18 pm

Now if we could get them to publish a list of sexual predators in pulpits and others areas within these church’s throughout the Southern Baptist faith, that would be worth writing about.

And then there are those who profess to be Doctors or use the DR. in front of their names without earning them in schools. We call it “Novelty” or token degrees. They call them “alumni” awards.

And what about those who throw out members because they are considered “opposition” to their theology within all our communities?
You call them Southern Baptist………………….

I call them ” the Baptist Mafia”

DJ

May 7th, 2009
2:32 pm

It’s not legal. I feel that it’s not toture, if there is no long term physical drawbacks. Although I can understand why it will foster positive, useful information, the use of waterboarding is not legal. It can’t be justified any other way.

RL

May 7th, 2009
2:38 pm

To the current 53% of you who believe waterboarding is not torture you should subject yourself to it and then come back and give your opinion. What the heck is wrong with people… what happened to American values? Disgusting… DISGUSTING!!!!

Jaun Carlos Diego Raul Sanchez

May 7th, 2009
2:39 pm

my Babtist brothers WTFudge cookies are you thinking…our enemy cuts off fingers, feet, and heads…we give a guy a bath and its torture…i am at odds…and maybe looking else where to study the word.

Brandon

May 7th, 2009
2:45 pm

The Bible says “love your enemy”, but Jesus also said to “be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”, i.e. being good does not mean you have to be stupid. I am a Christian and I would hate like heck to have to waterboard somebody, but if I was faced with a choice of waterboarding a known killer like the son of a guns the CIA waterboarded or letting thousands or even millions of innocent people die at their hands, I’m gonna waterboard the sucker, neither choice is acceptable, but I can live with the former better than the latter, I have to believe God would forgive me. We are doing such a poor job of teaching history in this country, waterboarding is nothing and I mean nothing compared to what has been done over the centuries. The United States is the most benevolent superpower ever in the history of humanity, this is pathetic that some of our own people believe we are so bad.

John

May 7th, 2009
2:48 pm

Brandon,

You speak the truth. RESPECT

Goldenstater

May 7th, 2009
2:54 pm

Copyleft,

I agree! Maybe they are Christians after all.

LSU

May 7th, 2009
2:54 pm

If southern baptist are against it then it is something that really needs to be done..

DBCOOP

May 7th, 2009
3:15 pm

Let me tell you this is where the SBC and I part ways. We should pull no punches or not hold back on watering down a terrorist to save American lives whether they be civilian or military. We turned a blind eye to these Ba$tards once and they took out better than 3000 in 3 swift blows. Lest ye forget.

Conventional Wisdom

May 7th, 2009
3:16 pm

The question you should ask yourself is this. Who decides who is a terrorist and who is not? Waht if this socalled “Terrorist” is and American? Does the end still justify the means? I just don’t trust anyone in government with making that decision. What’s to stop them from labeling a citizen as a “domestic terrorist” and waterboarding here we come….

jimbo

May 7th, 2009
3:19 pm

you are all idiots.

Adittohead

May 7th, 2009
3:22 pm

To say “torture” is againsat our ideals….is to say Nuking Japanese civilians to end WWII, was also against our IDEALs. We have killed men, women & children in the course of WAR…Ideals are put on the back burner during WARtime.

LSU

May 7th, 2009
3:24 pm

Conventional Wisdom,

Get the F*ck you terriorist!!!

LSU

May 7th, 2009
3:25 pm

Sorry it should be Get the F*ck Out you Terrorist!!!

Adittohead

May 7th, 2009
3:25 pm

Union General SHERMAN killed men, women & children in Atlanta & in his march to the GULF…Kill em..but don’t torture em..Good message,

89EAGLE

May 7th, 2009
3:27 pm

BEST POST AWARD +1

DBCOOP
May 7th, 2009
3:15 pm
Let me tell you this is where the SBC and I part ways. We should pull no punches or not hold back on watering down a terrorist to save American lives whether they be civilian or military. We turned a blind eye to these Ba$tards once and they took out better than 3000 in 3 swift blows. Lest ye forget.

Al

May 7th, 2009
3:30 pm

This man nor this convention speaks for me. As a Christian first and Southern Baptist second, Torture IS NOT condemed in scripture but sheading of innocent blood is. Hypocrites are those who say they do not want a person waterboarded to save the life of others. If they knew their child or loved one was about to be killed and knew someone who could tell them how to stop it. They would do it. And if not, they are no good to themselves, their family and friends, or their country. Wake up people, Good and evil really does exist.

Conventional Wisdom

May 7th, 2009
3:31 pm

LSU, let’s hope you don’t work for the CIA or we would all be waterboarded. Besides didn’t you get enough water for a life time from Katrina….