In 2005, Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Nashville Tennesseean that it “is permissible to inflict discomfort to gain information that will save lives, as long as it doesn’t cause permanent damage.” In 2007, he wrote on the WaPo/Newsweek blog, “I condemn torture and physical abuse of prisoners, no matter how heinous their crimes. We must never sink to the level of our enemies often barbarous behavior.” Yesterday, he told Jeffrey MacDonald of the Religion News Service:
I consider waterboarding torture…One of the definitions
of torture is that it causes permanent physical harm. I can’t separate
physical from psychological. And I can’t imagine that being repeatedly
subjected to the feeling of drowning would not, in some cases, cause
lasting psychological trauma.
But so far as I can tell, Land has never uttered a word of criticism of any government employee who during the Bush administration engaged in torture or in the justification or legitimation of it. The only U.S. government official he has been prepared to criticize in re: torture is President Obama, for releasing the Bybee memos. And: “To leave open the possibility of prosecuting men for what the Justice
Department had declared was legal, I think is a horrific mistake.” As for praise of the current president’s readiness to call waterboarding torture and ban its use–not a word.
Richard Land. Always the moralist. Always the partisan.