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Religious leaders must speak up on CIA report

It's their responsibility as teachers.

Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq
Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

Detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq

In its report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the Senate Intelligence Committee examines the cases where the Agency has said it obtained useful intelligence from “enhanced interrogation techniques” and finds the claims bogus. In their pushback, Agency officials, present as well as past, insist the contrary.

While this debate has its uses, it is morally irrelevant.

Last spring, the Catholic Bishop of Des Moines, Richard E. Pates, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, issued a statement supporting release of the report and noting that Catholic doctrine considers torture to be “‘an intrinsic evil’ that cannot be justified under any circumstances.” Although not all religious traditions take as hard a line on this as Catholicism, they agree that the moral issue is not whether torture produces accurate information.

The only circumstance that might justify torture is the kind of imminent danger dramatized in TV shows like “24,” where a bomb is about to go off and knowledge of its whereabouts is squeezed out of a bad guy. No such case is alleged by the CIA or its defenders.

Religious leaders need to make it clear that what the CIA did was, according to their teachings, wrong. And that those who claim otherwise are wrong. And that we as a society need to face up to what was done in our name.

The burden of such teaching responsibility falls particularly on those religious leaders whose flocks tend to be aligned with those who are now finding ways to exonerate the CIA and criticize the release of the report. Evangelicals and Mormons, that means you.