Faith actions and opposing torture: acting out our faith


By Wes Hare, for the Church of Reconciliation and the New Hope Presbytery Peacemaking Committee


For years, many organizations in North Carolina have struggled with CIA detainees being transported by the U.S. government using aircraft and pilots based in Johnston County, NC.  People of faith in local churches and related action groups have established a new local initiative to bring this practice to light and seek justice.  Let’s celebrate and support this with our energy and resources.

First, a reminder of our nation’s continued denial of its torture legacy.  In a detailed report released Dec. 1, 2015, Human Rights Watch identifies a legal basis for prosecution of government officials.  In “No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture,” HRW calls on the U.S. Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct criminal investigations of those responsible for post-9/11 torture. The report also calls for the release of the full Senate Torture Report, most of which remains classified.

Among those HRW calls on to be criminally investigated for their roles in authorizing torture are leading figures of the George W. Bush administration, including former CIA Director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — and Bush himself.

While chances for such an investigation are currently remote, there is a glimmer of hope:  the National Religious Coalition Against Torture (NRCAT) and other groups won a big victory when President Obama signed into law a bill to permanently ban CIA torture.  The FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires CIA interrogations to follow humane standards spelled out in the Army Field Manual, and requires International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees.  It also creates a procedure for updating the Field Manual with our best understanding of effective, humane interrogation techniques that do not involve the use or threat of force. 

This permanent ban on CIA torture is an important moral step forward for the nation.  Crucially, it was bi-partisan.  A Republican Congress joined with a Democratic President to end CIA torture forever.  People like yourself, from many different faiths, led the way by calling, with one united voice, for an end to torture. 

Now onward to North Carolina.  Specifically, the rendition flights, many of which took off from Johnston County Airport, are of unique concern to us because the airport is within the bounds of our neighborhoods.  What is our leaders’ response to the Senate Torture Report?  Governor Pat McCrory, other NC political government leaders, and North Carolina’s U.S. Senators have refused to act for greater transparency or accountability.

Enter the new local approach.  The NC Commission of Inquiry on Torture (NCCIT) is a non-governmental initiative to create the transparency for North Carolina’s role in CIA torture that our state and local governments have refused to recognize and support.  NCCIT is drawing on local churches for action and financial support. 

One such local response comes from the Church of Reconciliation or “the Rec,” a local Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill.  The Session of the Rec has approved $3,000 as requested and prepared with Rec support, and led by Janie Lee Freeman and the Rec’s Justice and Peace Committee.  Janie has been the moving force behind years-long flying of the Rec’s anti-torture banner.  This NCRAT banner has delivered our Church’s position, and now the New Hope Presbytery Peacemaking Committee has sent NCCIT $3,000 in financial support at the Rec’s request.  

NCCIT has presented this challenge to all of us.  Now it is up to us to rally a broader range of local faith-based resources to NCCIT so all of us can exert more pressure and get commitments from North Carolina’s leadership to bring this out into the public.

It seems clear, but won’t be without a struggle….

"Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation . . . want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. [. . .]  Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.  The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."
          -   Frederick Douglass, August 3, 1857

"All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations."
          - President Barack Obama, January 12, 2011


Wes Hare is a member of the Church of Reconciliation in Chapel Hill, NC,  and Moderator of the New Hope Presbytery Peacemaking Committee in Raleigh, NC. He is also the Co-Chair of the “Rec’s” Justice & Peace Committee. Hare is retired, but works as a crossing guard at Rashkis Elementary School in Chapel Hill . He also walks & harvests abandoned Golf Balls and donates them to the area ALS Jim “Catfish” Hunter Chapter's annual “Catfish Classic Golf Tournament."