The Report reminds me why I’ve fought so hard as a pastor against torture

As a Christian pastor, I knew I had to speak out when I saw the shocking pictures from Abu Ghraib surfaced in 2004 and suggested the existence of the U.S. torture program. Since I first saw them, I’ve partnered with others in the local faith community to raise awareness about the immorality and ineffectiveness of torture.

Some of us displayed banners on our places of worship stating “Torture is a Moral Issue” or “Torture is Wrong”. We hosted educational programs for our community and participated in demonstrations. Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice called for the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

Amazon Studio’s new political thriller, The Report (which is now available for streaming through Amazon) dramatizes the brutality of the 2002-2007 CIA torture program, as well as the political battle to make the failures of that program public.  It is difficult to watch, not only because the acts of torture depicted are shockingly wrong, but also because it lays bare the ways that our government justified, covered up, and lied about what we did, not just while the torture program was operating, but for many years afterward.

The film tells the story of how our own Senator Dianne Feinstein (portrayed by Annette Bening, who was just nominated for a Golden Globe for the film), others on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and members of the Intelligence Committee staff systematically uncovered the truth about the “enhanced interrogation techniques” the CIA used. The CIA fought these oversight efforts at every turn – even spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staff in an effort to prevent the Committee from exposing a document called the “Panetta review,” which confirmed the Committee’s finding that the torture program produced no unique actionable intelligence. 

While the public can not currently see the full 6,700 page un-redacted version of the Senate’s report, the heavily redacted 525-page executive summary was finally released in December 2014. Its descriptions of brutality should stir the conscience of all Americans. The CIA brutalized dozens of people, some of them the likely innocent victims of mistaken identity, all while failing at its fundamental goal – producing otherwise valuable intelligence. Senator Feinstein and her staff deserve the deep gratitude of our nation for their determination to ensure that Congress exercised proper oversight over the CIA’s actions.

Its descriptions of brutality should stir the conscience of all Americans.

Faith leaders involved with Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice continuously supported the release of the report on the committee’s investigation, following up on our 2013 op-ed by meeting with members of Senator Feinstein’s staff to express our support for making the truth public. Now the movie The Report gives our fellow citizens an opportunity to learn about the torture program and join us in speaking out against the horrors of torture and especially against our government’s support for torture.

As members and leaders of faith communities, we oppose torture in all circumstances. While our faith traditions differ, we all share a basic understanding and affirmation of the inherent worth of each individual; each of us has been created in the image of God and therefore all are endowed with a basic dignity. Our traditions also include some variant of what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Rule”: That which you would not want done to yourself, do not do to another. Torture violates both of these principles.

Watching The Report is not easy, but it is nonetheless important viewing. Each of us must take seriously our obligation as citizens to take responsibility for the actions of our nation. All of us must push our leaders toward policies and practices which reflect the highest moral and ethical standards of our faith traditions, so that we might become a more perfect union.

The Rev. Dr. Eileen Altman is the Associate Pastor at First Congregational Church of Palo Alto and a member of the Steering Committee of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice.

The Presbyterian Church USA’s stance on torture can be found in the 2006 overture entitled, “Resolution Against Torture.”

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