Common Ground We Can Believe In

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If I were a religious progressive eager to change America for the better by forging a broad national consensus on an issue of profound moral concern, then I’d focus my efforts on putting pressure on the Obama administration and the Congress to pursue truth and justice in the matter of Bush torture policy. Last week’s release of the four Bybee torture memos provides the occasion.

The makings of such a consensus already exist. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a membership organization that has been in existence since 2006. The membership includes denominations, congregations, and faith-based organizations from all quarters–Catholic, mainline Protestant, evangelical (well, at least one), Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, you name it. Groups on both sides of the current progressive food fight are on board: Catholics in Alliance, Sojourners, and Faith in Public Life (via Faithful America) along with Street Prophets and Progressive Christians Uniting. And that’s to say nothing about the secular side, including the ACLU (which brought the FOIA request that sprung the memos) and conservative libertarian types like Bruce Fein.

The question is whether all this anti-torture sentiment can be turned into something efficacious. One place to start on the White House front would be the Advisory Council of the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships–which has the brief to engage moral and religious concerns of all sorts. Council members have not been shy about speaking out and even signing letters urging the administration to take action–for example, a couple of weeks ago on the “conscience” protections for healthcare workers. The NRCAT is calling for a commission of inquiry. Others have called for the appointment of a special prosecutor. The table is set.