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the Rev. Cody J. Schuler, Published September 22 2012

Letter: We need to know what was done in our name

As a Christian pastor, my entire ministry has in many ways been shaped by 9/11. I was months into serving my first congregation when the events of that tragic day unfolded. In the years since, I have thought a lot about how we should treat other people. My calling is to walk alongside people as they work to be in right relationship with God and with one another. Key to this calling are the teachings of Jesus, which tell us to love our enemies and to pray for them. Therefore, I am ashamed at the thought of our government participating in acts of torture.

Torture is an abominable act. U.S. law states that it is illegal. Military officials tell us that torture is ineffective. All the world’s major religions tell us that it is immoral.

The United States held itself up to these standards and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture in 1994. By doing so, our country agreed to the following: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

No justification, period. So how will history remember

the use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11?

The American people need to know what the government did in our name. Over the past three years, the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted an investigation into the use of torture as an interrogation tactic. The results of this investigation should be made public.

As a basic principle of democratic governance, the American people need to know what their government has done so that they can vote on whether to continue such policies. More generally, we need to know the facts about torture because as military and intelligence officials have already told us, the facts will reveal that torture is not only immoral, it is also an ineffective interrogation technique – it produces bad, unreliable intelligence.

Politicians and government officials past and present debate the use of torture and its effectiveness. Torture is immoral and its effectiveness is irrelevant – the United States should never torture, under any circumstances. But since the proponents of torture defend it by claiming that it is effective, the American people deserve to see the facts so they may decide for themselves. If made public, the information in the report on the Intelligence Committee’s investigation will settle this debate.

Without seeing the results of the Intelligence Committee’s investigation, the public will not receive an accounting of what was done in its name, and future policymakers will be handicapped in their efforts to make better decisions about future interrogation practices.

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture reminds us that torture violates each individual’s human dignity and demeans the worth of every person involved, principles upheld across multiple religious traditions. In my own tradition, The United Methodist Church Social Principles state, “The mistreatment or torture, and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment or punishment of persons by governments for any purpose violates Christian teaching and must be condemned and/or opposed by Christians and churches wherever and whenever it occurs” (¶164A Basic Freedoms & Human Rights).

I’m thankful that the president signed an executive order halting torture practices, but a new executive order can be signed at any time – even one that reverses the president’s. We need to make sure that never happens. The American people need to know about the torture that was done in our name. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee; join me in asking him to support making public the committee’s report on its investigation into torture.

Rev. Schuler is a Fargo pastor.