Several top religious leaders donned orange jumpsuits and demanded that the United States government close its prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They appeared in a series of short videos released by the Soros-funded National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) on September 13 via their YouTube channel. The leaders featured in the videos spoke in front of the U.S. Capitol building as they held a black sign with the words “CLOSE GUANTANAMO” printed across it.
This stunt represented the latest attempt by religious progressives, NRCAT in particular, at “rallying the faithful” – to quote Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley – against Guantanamo. Tooley has described NRCAT as a “coalition of Mainline Protestant denominations, left-leaning evangelicals and Catholic caucuses, and Muslim groups like the Islamic Society of North America.”
NRCAT’s previous efforts include their officials participating in a disruptive demonstration inside the National Museum of American History. The group also sponsored a conference decrying our “national descent into torture” and organized “Torture Awareness Month” in coalition with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Code Pink.
Leaders appearing in these latest videos included National Council of Churches (NCC) President Jim Winkler, NRCAT Director of Finance & Operations Tara “T.C.” Morrow, United Church of Christ (UCC) Washington Office Director Sandra Sorensen, and InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFC) Executive Director Rabbi Gerald Serotta.
NRCAT Executive Director Rev. Ron Stief also appeared in the videos. However, the video featuring his comments was posted on July 7, indicating the entire series of videos was actually recorded more than two months ago.
The leaders each unequivocally condemned holding prisoners at Guantanamo. Winkler declared that “now is the time to close Guantanamo” in his video. He also denounced “the illegal confinement of prisoners, many of whom we know are innocent,” by the United States government.
“As I think about it, Christian history, like Jewish history and Muslim history, and the history of many other faiths, is replete with examples of people who have been falsely imprisoned and tortured,” Winkler said.
Morrow, a lesbian activist in the United Methodist Church who was denied ordination earlier this year, seemed to contradict Winkler in her comments. “As a Christian, I strongly believe that it is not our responsibility to judge the guilt or innocence of anyone at Guantanamo, and we don’t have any of the information we would need to do so anyway,” she said.
Instead, she claimed it was Christians’ “responsibility” to speak out against “torture and detention without trial” as immoral. She later added, “I stand here to say very clearly: Shut it down!”
Serotta said she had “taken on this orange jumpsuit” to demonstrate her “solidarity” with those held at Guantanamo and those being held “in unjust conditions” worldwide. “As long as Guantanamo Bay operates, it is a moral stain on our country,” she said. “The existence of Guantanamo, the practice of torture, and indefinite detention runs contrary to the very core values of our nation and our faiths.”
Serotta developed a similar theme. He prayed that “people of faith” would be freed by God “from the moral burden of continuing a threat to our constitutional values and our respect to human dignity, which is the legacy and the reality of Guantanamo.”Google+