National Religious Campaign Against Torture
|Founded||January 2006 by George Hunsinger|
|Method(s)||Protecting and promoting human rights|
|Members||260 American Religious Organizations|
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a U.S. non-governmental organization committed to engaging people of faith to work together to ensure that the United States does not engage in torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of anyone, without exceptions. NRCAT’s mission statement explains that: “Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear. It degrades everyone involved -- policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.”
NRCAT was created in January 2006 at the conference, “Theology, International Law and Torture: A Conference on Human Rights and Religious Commitment.” Dr. George Hunsinger of Princeton Theological Seminary convened the conference to better equip the multiple religious communities to take a more prominent role in the effort to end U.S.-sponsored torture. 150 leaders of a variety of faiths attended the Conference.
From January 2006 to May 2007, NRCAT was a project of the Churches’ Center for Theology and Public Policy, a national ecumenical research center located at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. In May 2007, NRCAT became an independent organization and hired Rev. Richard L. Killmer  as Executive Director. Additional staff were subsequently hired.
In December 2007, the NRCAT Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) entity, was created. The Action Fund is responsible for lobbying and election campaign activities around the issue of U.S.-sponsored torture.
In 2008, NRCAT worked urging Presidential candidates, Members of Congress, the President-elect and the President himself to issue an executive order halting torture. On January 22, 2009 President Obama issued Executive Order 13491 titled "Ensuring Lawful Interrogations,” which halted U.S.-sponsored torture.
As of November 2009, 260 religious organizations are members of NRCAT. Member organizations include: Evangelical Christians, Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, mainline Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Bahá’ís, and Buddhists. Members include national denominational and faith group bodies, regional entities such as state ecumenical agencies, as well as congregations and other local religious organizations.
Presidential Executive Order
With two partner organizations, the Center for Victims of Torture and Evangelicals for Human Rights, NRCAT launched a campaign aimed at securing an executive order to end the practice of torture and inhumane treatment by the United States. The campaign included several activities including the statement - “Declaration of Principles for a Presidential Executive Order on Prisoner Treatment, Torture and Cruelty,” efforts in 50 cities on November 12, 2008 during a “National Day of Witness for an Executive Order to Ban Torture,” and meetings with the Obama transition team.
Commission of Inquiry
NRCAT advocates for an independent, nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry to investigate the torture policies and practices of the U.S. government since September 11, 2001 in order to discover what safeguards are needed to make sure that U.S.-sponsored torture never happens again. On June 11, 2009, during “Torture Awareness Month,” NRCAT brought together eight heads of faith groups and 350 persons of faith for a public witness in front of the White House. The religious leaders called upon President Obama to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate U.S.-sponsored torture that occurred post-9/11.
2009 Legislative Initiatives
In 2009, NRCAT also advocated for the codification of elements of Executive Order 13491 and other important anti-torture provisions into law, including the “Golden Rule” of one national standard for interrogation, International Committee of the Red Cross access to all detainees, videotaping interrogations, ending rendition for torture, and passage of the Torture Victims Relief Act.
Statement of Conscience: “Torture is a Moral Issue”
In 2006, NRCAT launched a campaign to collect endorsements of its “Statement of Conscience,” which states that “torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions, in their highest ideals, hold dear.” It has been endorsed by more than 50,000 people. Also, in 2006, the statement was placed in the New York Times with 27 national religious leaders endorsing.
Banners Across America
In June 2008, through NRCAT’s “Banners Across America Project” 350 congregations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia displayed anti-torture banners on the exterior of their buildings.
Education in Local Faith Communities
NRCAT’s educational initiatives include distribution of films and study resources for people of faith. In 2007 the “Spotlight on Torture” project involved distribution to religious congregations across the U.S. of 1000 copies of the film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib. In 2009, NRCAT produced a 20 minute video, “Ending U.S.-sponsored Torture Forever.”
Evangelicals for Human Rights
In 2006, NRCAT helped create the organization, “Evangelicals for Human Rights.” This organization prepared “An Evangelical Declaration Against Torture,” which was adopted by the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Portrayal of Torture in Popular Entertainment
NRCAT organized a delegation of senior national religious leaders to meet with executives at Fox Entertainment to express concern about the television show “24” and Hollywood’s portrayal of torture.
- Human Rights
- Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
- Moral Rights
- Civil Rights
- Torture and the United States
- United Nations Convention Against Torture
- Hunsinger, George (2008). Torture Is a Moral Issue: Christians, Jews, Muslims, and People of Conscience Speak Out. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-6029-X.