The current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education includes an excerpt from a soon to be published book entitled Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America: An Evangelical's Lament by Randall Balmer. This passage from the published excerpt provides anecdotal evidence for the proposition that the "Christian Right" is--sometimes, at least--neither:
The torture of human beings, God's creatures--some guilty of crimes, others not--has been justified by the Bush administration, which also believes that it is perfectly acceptable to conduct surveillance on American citizens without putting itself to the trouble of obtaining a court order. Indeed, the chicanery, the bullying, and the flouting of the rule of law that emanates from the nation's capital these days make Richard Nixon look like a fraternity prankster.
Where does the religious right stand in all this? Following the revelations that the U.S. government exported prisoners to nations that have no scruples about the use of torture, I wrote to several prominent religious-right organizations. Please send me, I asked, a copy of your organization's position on the administration's use of torture. Surely, I thought, this is one issue that would allow the religious right to demonstrate its independence from the administration, for surely no one who calls himself a child of God or who professes to hear "fetal screams" could possibly countenance the use of torture.
Although I didn't really expect that the religious right would climb out of the Republican Party's cozy bed over the torture of human beings, I thought perhaps they might poke out a foot and maybe wiggle a toe or two.
I was wrong. Of the eight religious-right organizations I contacted, only two, the Family Research Council and the Institute on Religion and Democracy, answered my query. Both were eager to defend administration policies. "It is our understanding, from statements released by the Bush administration," the reply from the Family Research Council read, "that torture is already prohibited as a means of collecting intelligence data." The Institute on Religion and Democracy stated that "torture is a violation of human dignity, contrary to biblical teachings," but conceded that it had "not yet produced a more comprehensive statement on the subject," even months after the revelations. Its president worried that the "anti-torture campaign seems to be aimed exclusively at the Bush administration," thereby creating a public-relations challenge.
I'm sorry, but the use of torture under any circumstances is a moral issue, not a public-relations dilemma.
Balmer is right, although those who can't grasp the moral issue should understand that torture is also a public-relations nightmare for the United States.