SBC’s Richard Land condemns ‘waterboarding’ and torture

By Jill Waggoner
May 6, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—There is no room for torture as part of the United States’ intelligence-gathering process, Richard Land said today. He also said he believes the practice known as “waterboarding” is torture and, as such, is unethical.

Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said there is no circumstance in which torture should be permissible in interrogations by U.S. officials, even if the authorities believe a prisoner has information that might involve national security.

“I don’t agree with the belief that we should use any means necessary to extract information,” said Land. “I believe there are absolutes. There are things we must never do under any circumstances.

“For me the ultimate test is: Could I, in good conscience, do whatever I am authorizing or condoning others to do? If not, then I must oppose the action. If I could not waterboard someone—and I couldn’t—then I must oppose its practice.”

Land said he considers waterboarding to be torture because the definition of torture includes the determination of whether a procedure causes permanent physical harm, noting he is unable to “separate physical from psychological harm” in this instance. The practice contravenes an individual’s personhood and their humanity, he said.

“It violates everything we believe in as a country,” Land said, reflecting on the words in the Declaration of Independence: that “all men are created equal” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”

“There are some things you should never do to another human being, no matter how horrific the things they have done. If you do so, you demean yourself to their level,” he said.

“Civilized countries should err on the side of caution. It does cost us something to play by different rules than our enemies, but it would cost us far more if we played by their rules,” Land concluded.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.2 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

Further Learning

Learn more about: Citizenship, Human Rights, War,

You May Also Like

Why I Am Not a Pacifist

By Daniel R. Heimbach - Mar 12, 2012

I was born of missionary parents in the midst of war during the Communist revolution in China, and my life has been touched by war in significant ways. I am also a born again Christian, a true follower of Jesus Christ, and a moral theologian who specializes in understanding and teaching ethics.…

Read More

Senate passes ENDA; House stands in way

By Tom Strode - Nov 8, 2013 - (1)

The U.S. Senate has approved for the first time legislation to grant workplace civil rights on the basis of homosexual, bisexual or transgender status, leaving the House of Representatives as the lone potential barrier to enactment of the controversial proposal.…

Read More

Resolutions address sinner’s prayer, gay marriage

By Tom Strode - Jun 21, 2012

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention approved resolutions Wednesday reaffirming their convictions regarding the means of salvation and the inerrancy of Scripture while indicating their intention to continue cooperating in the Great Commission despite some theological differences.…

Read More
LIFE: Retooled Life Network stands ready to help Land: ‘Waterboarding’ never ethical