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Even If Torture Works, It is Still Immoral

by Steven D. Martin and Richard Cizik

Like a recurring nightmare, the argument over whether America should torture detainees has once again gained momentum in the wake of bin Laden's killing.

Former government officials are defending torture on pragmatic grounds. Liz Cheney insists that waterboarding produced critical pieces of information that led us to bin Laden. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently said on Sean Hannity’s show that the CIA “concluded that a major fraction of the intelligence in our country on al Qaeda came from...three people who were waterboarded.”

Reflections on the bin Laden killing

For those who projected onto Barack Obama the hope that he would be a transformative figure, a peacemaker/great soul like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, the targeted killing of Osama bin Laden ought to put such hopes to rest.

Barack Obama is pursuing a different narrative. First he wanted to be the president of the United States and now he wants to succeed as president of the United States. Presidents of the United States pursue the national interest of the United States and do so in the manner that most citizens of the United States find congenial. That is precisely what President Obama did in this action.

Torture, Immoral and Ineffective: The Right Response to bin Laden’s Death

Claims that the bin Laden raid was based on information provided by detainees has revived the debate over the effectiveness of the former Administration’s “enhanced interrogation program” (i.e. torture).

A number of high profile officials invested in the former Administration’s torture program have jumped on the opportunity to use Osama’s death as an opportunity to redeem their grave missteps. Former lawyer in the Office of Legal Counsel, Jonathan Yoo, implied in the National Review that bin Laden’s death was made possible by intelligence gained through waterboarding and that President Obama’s success is due “to the tough decisions taken by the Bush administration.”

Unfortunately, not only are such claims made without shame, they are made without merit.

Earth Day Should Always Fall on Good Friday

On today, April 22, 2011, millions of people in over 175 nations are commemorating the 41st Earth Day. This is a time to celebrate.

Great good has come out of Earth Day since Senator Gaylord Nelson first started it in 1970, and we are a better people because of it.

This is also a time to mourn. The planet continues to struggle under the debilitating weight of unsustainable human consumption. This reality hits my generation—the Millennials—especially hard as we gear up to inherit the earth. Inheritances are supposed to be a blessing; this one is becoming a curse.

Creation is worse off now, by almost every measure, than it was back on the first Earth Day. It is easy to look at the interconnected environmental and social crises of today-- the water crisis, food crisis, energy crisis, climate crisis, global pollution and toxicfication, disease, natural disasters, wars and violence—and fall into despair.

Fiscal responsibility, with moral sanity

Progressive activists, including some of my Christian friends, have staged hunger strikes to dramatize their objections to proposed budget cuts in Congress that would affect the poor. I care deeply about such cuts, but I have not joined the fast.

While I admire the compassion for the poor that motivates these actions, I think this is a time for deliberative decision-making about our nation’s long-term fiscal responsibility and moral sanity rather than a moment for dramatic gestures.

I believe that we have about five years to make the structural decisions that are essential to our nation’s financial health. If we do not make these decisions ourselves, eventually our creditors will force us to make them:

Now is not the time to cut critical programs to fight hunger and disease

I believe that the church should be the conscience of our culture. The call to care for “the least of these,” to feed the hungry and to care for the sick, is at the very core of our tradition.

As Congress continues to wrangle over the federal budget, it is morally unacceptable that the deepest cuts under consideration target programs that fight disease, hunger and extreme poverty around the world.

The federal deficit is of genuine concern to us all. We understand that tough choices and sacrifices are necessary. But given that international humanitarian assistance programs represent less than half of 1 percent of the total federal budget, the suggested cuts will do little to rectify our budget crisis.

Six Degrees of Charlie Sheen: God, Fame Games & the Global Female

When Jesus announced his ministry to a synagogue of marginalized Jews in Nazareth during the upheaval of the first-century Roman diaspora, he read from Isaiah 61 to summarize his mission: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. [The Lord] has sent me to proclaim freedom of the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Hearings on Muslims could harm us all

Beginning this week, Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., will use his role as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee to convene hearings on what his website calls "al-Qaeda's coordinated radicalization and recruitment of people within the American Muslim community." This premise has set off alarm bells, especially in the Muslim community, but also among many others.

As an American, and as a Christian, I dispute the way King has framed these hearings, and I am very concerned about their possible implications. My reasons will be clear shortly. But I do not dismiss the legitimate fears that lie behind widespread public support for such hearings.

We have indeed seen a steady flow of high-profile Islamist terrorist plots and arrests over the past decade. Since 2001, according to a recent study from the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (Duke University/University of North Carolina/RTI International), 161 American Muslims have been publicly accused of planning or carrying out terror attacks. Eleven succeeded, killing 33 people.

Common sense and common ground

The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, along with a variety of health care services for women. The Virginia General Assembly last week approved legislation that requires abortion clinics to be regulated as hospitals, and providers say the stricter regulations will force many of them out of business. Both measures were pushed by anti-abortion activists. Should personal and religious views be allowed to prevent women from having access to a legal medical procedure?

By David Gushee and Cristina Page

Last week House Republicans voted to ban federal funding to the nation's largest provider of contraceptive services, Planned Parenthood, and to vacate all federal funding of Title X, the nation's contraception program for the poor.

Putting the 'mare' in nightmare for pro-choice advocates, House Republicans then introduced an amendment in favor of funding birth control for wild horses. Of course the irony was not lost on pro-choice supporters, but this time the joke is on pro-life Americans too.

We are two advocates on opposing sides of the abortion conflict who are uniting to oppose and sound the alarm over these irrational acts of Congress. While abstinence is the only foolproof way to prevent pregnancy, contraception is currently the most practical form of preventing unintended pregnancy, and thus to reduce abortions. The research is not ambiguous: Women who are not using contraceptives or use them inconsistently, account for 95 percent of the unintended pregnancies each year; 40 percent of these end in abortion. Indeed, contraception is credited with preventing an estimated 112 million abortions worldwide each year.

Not only is the Republican proposal illogical, but it takes direct aim at our most vulnerable populations, the poor who incidentally are the most likely to seek abortions. Today, women living in poverty are nearly four times more likely to become pregnant unintentionally and three times more likely to have an abortion than women of greater means.

Shared commitment to women and children

By Rev. Richard Cizik and Rev. Debra W. Haffner

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows, and perhaps they are right. Today, we are together in speaking out against the suffering that will be caused to low-income families if the House of Representatives' proposed cuts to basic health services are allowed to stand.

Richard is the co-founder and president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a partnership of progressive evangelical organizations. He is an ordained Evangelical Presbyterian minister. Debra is the co-founder and executive director of the Religious Institute, a multifaith network of more than 5,000 religious leaders who are committed to sexual justice in America's faith communities and in society, including sexuality education, reproductive justice and full inclusion of women and LGBT people in the life of each faith community. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister and a certified sexuality educator. In our previous careers, Richard was vice president for government affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals and Debra was president of the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States. On face value, it may appear that we represent very different points of view, but we have learned that we have a shared moral commitment to women and children around the world.

As religious leaders, we are both called to respond to the needs of the most marginalized, the most vulnerable, and the most likely to be excluded. Both of our organizations are committed to Goal Five of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, calling for improved global maternal health by reducing maternal mortality by three quarters and achieving universal access to reproductive health. Both of us are committed to helping create a just and equitable world where no woman will die giving birth to the next generation.

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