Mercer to Host National Torture Summit in Atlanta

An unprecedented national summit on torture sponsored by 15 diverse faith groups will convene on Mercer’s Atlanta campus Sept. 11-12 to examine how U.S. government policy in recent years came to sanction torture and discuss ways Evangelical Christians and Americans of other faiths can mobilize to secure a “no torture-no exceptions” policy.

Titled “Religious Faith, Torture, and Our National Soul,” the conference is being organized by Dr. David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer. Among the more than 50 speakers, presenters and moderators scheduled to participate in the conference are academics from institutions such as Yale University, the University of Notre Dame, New York University, Seton Hall Law School, Morehouse College, Georgetown University, Vanderbilt University, Princeton Theological Seminary and Mercer. Presenters will also include retired senior military officers and leaders from Christian, Jewish and Islamic organizations.

Results of a new poll of Southern Evangelicals on their attitudes toward torture and its connection to their faith and moral values will be released at 10:45 a.m. on the first day of the conference. Commissioned by Mercer University and conference co-sponsor Faith in Public Life, the poll is the first major survey of Southern Evangelicals — a group that has been disproportionately supportive of the Bush administration's foreign policy — on the issue of torture.

“I have believed for some time that the descent into torture is primarily a spiritual issue,” Gushee said. “I picked September 11 for the conference date intentionally, to address the spiritual realities of fear, grief, and anger that fueled our national turn to officially sanctioned torture, as well as address our subsequent national unwillingness to renounce torture once it was discovered.”

Gushee, who also serves as president of Evangelicals for Human Rights, a conference co-sponsor, said the program is designed to “go to the source of the problem, to diagnose how we got here, and to chart a way forward to a better American future.”

Among the other co-sponsors of the conference are the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Center for Victims of Torture, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Evangelicals for Social Action, Faith and the City, Faith in Public Life, the Islamic Society of North America, Morehouse College, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, No2Torture, Rabbis for Human Rights, Sojourners and Third Way.

The conference is limited to 250 registrants. Online registration and additional program details are available at www.evangelicalsforhumanrights.org.

For more information, call (678) 547-6457.

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