Interfaith Letter About Attorney General Nomination

Here is a copy of an interfaith letter to the ranking members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the nomination Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General of the United States.
Rabbis For Human Rights (of which I am a supporter) joined for the first time in an action regarding the US (previously it focused only on Israel) and in its first interfaith initiative. I urge you to contact your Senator or the Senator's on the Judiciary Committee to express your concerns over his nomination. For those who aren't aware, as White House Counsel he wrote legal opinions authorizing use of torture and extra-judicial arrest and containment.
Rabbi Bruce

January 5, 2004
The Honorable Arlen Specter
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Patrick L. Leahy
Ranking Member, Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Specter and Ranking Member Leahy:

We, the undersigned religious leaders and organizations, write to express
strong concern regarding the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney
General of the United States.

As people with a deep commitment to racial justice, we appreciate that
President Bush has nominated a number of people of color for cabinet
positions. Greater racial diversity at the highest levels of government is
an important step towards the Beloved Community. Like the Rev. Martin Luther
King, Jr., we dream of a day when all people “will not be judged by the
color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Therefore, as
you consider Mr. Gonzales for the vital position of Attorney General, we ask
that you take seriously his judgment, experience, and qualifications. We
offer you the following questions and concerns from our religious

First and foremost, we as people of faith have a profound commitment to
affirming the worth and dignity of all people, all of whom are children of
God. We therefore have grave concerns about Mr. Gonzales’ reported role in
sanctioning torture. We believe that no person, including the President of
the United States, has the authority to authorize torture. We can think of
nothing more antithetical to our basic moral values, or detrimental to our
national role as a voice for human rights throughout the world. If our
highest law enforcement official is known to have sanctioned torture, and
shown a willingness to disregard or evade some of the most fundamental
international human rights laws, how can the United States have any
credibility as we oppose repression in other nations? What basis will we
have for condemning those who abuse Americans serving in the military or
working abroad?

With this in mind, we urge you to vigorously investigate Mr. Gonzales’ views
on torture and international law, and hold him to a high moral standard of
accountability for his actions. What will he do to reassure the world that
the United States values human rights and international law?

Second, though we come from different faith traditions, we share a common
imperative to welcome the strangers in our midst—to treat others with the
respect and dignity that we expect for ourselves. Since the tragedy of
September 11th, far too many people have been abused, profiled, or otherwise
mistreated by law enforcement and immigration practices. We have heard far
too many stories of needless suffering—of families split apart; of people
deported to countries they have never known—or have tried to escape from; of
good people losing jobs and friends because they were detained with little
or no evidence of wrongdoing or for reasons unrelated to terrorism.

In addition to the pain and hardship these practices bring upon those
directly involved, they create a broader problem by spreading fear and
mistrust throughout whole communities. Sadly, those most adversely affected
are Arabs and Muslims—precisely the groups with whom we desperately need
trust and solidarity. As news of this mistreatment has spread, the United
States has lost even more credibility abroad. By causing needless suffering,
undermining domestic trust, and tarnishing our image abroad, unfair law
enforcement and immigration practices have made America considerably less

With this in mind, we urge you to investigate whether or not Mr. Gonzales
will continue these immoral and often ineffective procedures. What, if
anything, will he do to restore the trust and credibility that have been

Third, we are concerned about Mr. Gonzales’ views on issues of religious
freedom. We believe that persons must be free to hold religious belief or
unbelief without coercion, to meet together for public worship and witness,
to speak prophetically from religious conviction to government and society,
to practice their religious beliefs, and to be free from government
intrusion, coercion, and control.

We are concerned that ethnic, national, and religious profiling by law
enforcement creates an environment in which individuals regularly feel
unable to exercise or that it is unwise to exercise their right to religious
expression. We are concerned that the Department of Justice relaxed
restrictions on surveillance of domestic religious organizations.

With this in mind, we urge you to examine Mr. Gonzales’ views and record on
respecting religious liberty. What will he do to ensure that all
Americans—citizen and immigrant alike—feel comfortable expressing their
faith, and participating in the life of their religious community?

Our nation deserves—and desperately needs—an Attorney General that will be
trusted and effective at home and respected abroad. We believe that there
are critical issues of religious, public, and global interest that must be
addressed regarding Mr. Gonzales’ nomination. In addition to evaluating his
qualifications, the confirmation process is an opportunity to establish a
public record of statements to which Mr. Gonzales can be held accountable if
he is confirmed.

Again, we urge you to vigorously investigate Mr. Gonzales’ views on critical
areas including torture and international law; domestic law enforcement
practices, and respect for religious liberty. We pray that religious and
moral values, including fairness and respect for all people, will guide you
throughout the confirmation process.

In Faith,
Debra Kolodny, Executive Director ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Rev. Stan Hastey, Executive Director Alliance of Baptists
Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary American Friends Service Committee
Jeanne E. Herrick-Stare, Senior Fellow for Civil Liberties and Human Rights
Friends Committee on National Legislation(Quaker)
Rev. Welton Gaddy, President The Interfaith Alliance
Mahdi Bray, Executive Director Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation
Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary National Council of Churches USA
Simone Campbell, SSS, National Coordinator NETWORK
Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory, Director
Washington Office Presbyterian Church (USA), Dr. George Hunsinger Princeton Theological Seminary
Rabbi Brian Walt, Executive Director Rabbis for Human Rights North America
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director The Shalom Center
Preetmohan Singh, National Director Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Rev. Ron Steif United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries
Jim Winkler, General Secretary United Methodist General Board of Church & Society
Robert Keithan, Director Washington Office for Advocacy Unitarian Universalist Association
Charles Clements, President and Chief Executive Officer Unitarian
Universalist Service Committee

cc: Senate Judiciary Committee

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