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.
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