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West Hills Friends approved this minute on torture on February 18, 2006.


As Christians and members of West Hills Friends Church (Quaker,) we embrace the ancient teaching of Scripture, "And God said, Let us make the human being in our image, after our likeness." (Genesis 1:26) Our spiritual forefathers and mothers taught us about "that of God" in every person and of the "light of God within" that illumines our lives and directs our actions. Jesus Christ, who showed us this light in his earthly life, taught us the way of peace as children of God. His valuing of persons, both high and lowly and his call to us to live as children of God's kingdom of light, causes us to speak out against recent, and perhaps ongoing torture practices, by our country.

Along with many others, we are shocked, revolted and saddened by our government's use of torture in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay despite constitutional and Supreme Court precedents that have historically denounced physical and psychological cruelty. We see these practices as characteristic, not of this nation, but of those repressive and totalitarian regimes that we have historically criticized, judged deficient, and often sanctioned. The Geneva Conventions, considered to be the standard of civilized conduct for nations who respect human dignity, have been denigrated, denied and ignored by leaders of our nation.

We believe that torture can never be justified as a means of control or extracting information from those deemed enemies. Torture dehumanizes its victims, obliterating the image of God in those who are tortured, and thus insulting the Creator of us all. Perpetrators, in their blindness to the humanity of those they torture, become inflictors of unbearable humiliation and pain. Thus torture, by its barbaric practices and disregard for the dignity of fellow human beings, steals the humanity of tortured and torturer alike.

We now call on our government leaders, including the executive branch, to acknowledge the wrong and inhumane treatment of prisoners during recent years and to uphold in both word and deed the McCain Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Appropriations Bill recently passed by the U. S. Senate. In addition, we ask that these words of William Penn (1683) be the norm for further actions by government leaders and ourselves alike: "A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it.... Let us then try what Love may do."