What in the world was the Apostle Paul thinking in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 when he told Christians to eliminate all divisions and "be perfectly united in mind and thought"? The National Association of Evangelicals' annual meeting in Eden, Minn., was a largely neglected story. The conservative group "condemned torture by the U.S. military" and said that the U.S. has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible." The endorsement of the document by 17 evangelical scholars, writers and activists united as Evangelicals for Human Rights was made by a 38 to 1 vote, with Jerald Walz of the Institute on Religion and Democracy as the lone negative vote.
The best story on this vote so far has come from the Associated Press' Rachel Zoll, who was also one of the first on the story (aside from Reuters and the one-sentence mention from The Washington Post's Alan Cooperman on Sunday). Zoll's lede is quick to the language of the statement, while the Reuters article (with an odd Dallas dateline) focused more on the evangelical cat fight that is by now nearly a week-old story.
Here's the AP:
The National Association of Evangelicals has endorsed an anti-torture statement saying the United States has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in its treatment of detainees and war prisoners in the fight against terror.
Human rights violations committed in the name of preventing terrorist attacks have made the country look hypocritical to the Muslim world, the document states. Christians have an obligation rooted in Scripture to help Americans "regain our moral clarity."
"Our military and intelligence forces have worked diligently to prevent further attacks. But such efforts must not include measures that violate our own core values," the document says. "The United States historically has been a leader in supporting international human rights efforts, but our moral vision has blurred since 9-11."
The New York Times' Laurie Goodstein picked up the whole evangelical cat fight story on Wednesday and tucked the torture issue in near the top. Here's an interesting note from the lone dissenter on the torture vote:
The only board member who has voiced public criticism of Mr. Cizik is Jerald Walz, who represents the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a resource group for conservatives in mainline Protestant denominations.
Mr. Walz said many board members were angry about the letter concerning Mr. Cizik because it was sent to the news media before the board received it. His was the sole vote against endorsing the document on torture; he said he thought it needed more time for consideration.
Someone should go ask Dr. Dobson and his people about sowing disunity among Christians. I'd be curious to hear what he has to say.
But back to the torture document. An angle that everyone except the Times is missing is that the NAE did this three years ago. Does that make this less newsworthy? That depends. None of the stories say whether this statement is stronger than before or has more support from the group's members.
A final thing that I hope reporters will follow up on in a press conference sometime soon is the "White House spokesman" who said he could not immediately comment on the group's condemnation of torture. Who is this spokesman? Is it Tony Snow, who has quite a spiritual testimony? Will the AP follow up on this piece once the White House decides to comment?
I hope a reporter will ask Bush about this at his next press conference.