Religion

Religious Groups React To Guantanamo Bay Closure Plan

| by Diana Kruzman
A Humvee at Guantanamo Bay Naval BaseA Humvee at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base

Religious groups have mixed reactions to the proposed closure of Guantanamo Bay by President Barack Obama, with some lauding the move while others saying it will not be enough.

Obama submitted a proposal for closing the prison, which is in Cuba and currently holds 91 people on charges of serious military offenses against the U.S., to Congress on Feb. 23, according to CNN. Closing Guantanamo Bay was one of Obama’s campaign promises in 2008, and the current proposal lays out a plan for transferring 35 detainees to U.S. prisons, while 10 will undergo military tribunals; the remainder may be sent home or to a third country.

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Some religious leaders, such as Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek in Arizona, have commended Obama for addressing human rights abuses that occur at Guantanamo Bay, according to the Religion News Service.

“Rather than being a symbol of strength, Guantanamo has made us all less safe,” Yanklowitz wrote in an email to RNS. “Judaism rejects the cruel tactics of torture, even for those suspected of the worst crimes … the religious community must not be silent when it comes to promoting human rights for all.”

Others, including the evangelical Christian organization The American Center for Law and Justice, denounced the plan to shut down Guantanamo Bay as a threat to national security.

“The announcement by President Obama underscores the blatant political nature of this president during his two terms in office,” said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow, according to RNS. “Closing GITMO not only places America in grave danger, it bootstraps the next president -- continuing a foreign policy that is dangerous to America.”

Some religious groups, including the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, have stated that the plan does not do enough to prevent human rights abuses in the U.S., as it still allows the government to hold the Guantanamo Bay prisoners indefinitely and without trial, according to RNS.

“The president’s goal of transferring or trying almost all of the detainees can only improve our moral standing in the world,” the Rev. Ron Stief said in a statement. “However, an important flaw in the President’s plan is that it is immoral and contrary to American values for the U.S. to hold anyone without the reasonable prospect of a trial.”

Sources: CNN, Religion News Service / Photo credit: The U.S. Army/Flickr