Richard Cizik

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Do evangelical Christians have a uniform view on torture? Sadly, not yet. But I believe they should, for the reasons that follow.

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The most powerful argument against torture is the Christian tenet that every human life is sacred. How can we say we are for the sanctity of human life, and then deny those God-given rights?

The second is human rights. The concept of human rights is not a secular idea, but one found in Christian sources long before the Enlightenment. Among the most basic is the right to security of person, which surely includes the right not to be tortured.

Third, there are the far-reaching consequences of torture. Since 9/11, we have exchanged our reputation as a leader of human rights for a clouded moral vision. Mistreatment of enemy combatants invites mistreatment of American troops when captured—if not in Iraq today, then in future conflicts.

Fourth, there is the simple duty that we all have as citizens to obey the law. U.S. law and military doctrine prohibits torture or cruel and degrading treatment. Yet by the government's own admission, American interrogators have resorted to the practice of waterboarding, which is a form of torture. It is also indisputably clear from the testimony of other former intelligence and military officials that we have, by other methods, tortured prisoners in custody.

Legal loopholes remain that permit most of these practices to continue. (The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2008, approved in late February by the Senate but not, as of this writing, signed by President Bush, would close many of these loopholes.) The Pentagon's revised Army Field Manual on interrogation, which bans all acts of torture and cruel and degrading treatment, should be extended to every sector of the U.S. government, without exception.

A consensus is emerging within our churches about our obligation to speak out against torture. As evangelical Christians, we have a non-negotiable responsibility to oppose a policy that is a violation of both our religious values and our national ideals.

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Richard Cizik is vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals..  
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