The group held a demonstration Thursday in front of the White House,asking President Obama to appoint a commission to investigate what they deemed torture carried out by members of the U.S. military.
Obama signed an executive order in January banning techniques used by the Bush administration that he called torture.
The gathering,attended by about 150 people,included speeches by religious leaders,prayer and a blessing of water by Archbishop Vicken Aykazian,legate of the Armenian Church of America.
The Rev. John Thomas,general minister and president of the United Church of Christ,was among the leaders who spoke against the use of torture.
“Its ugliness must be exposed and judged against the bright light of truth,” he said at a news conference before the event. He and the other speakers said they thought a commission that would unveil the truth was essential to create new safeguards and to move forward as a nation.
Rabbi Steve Gutow,president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,strongly condemned torture.
“Torture stands as a sin on a par with genocide and mass murder,” he said.
After the event,some of the religious leaders joined a group of 33 invited to meet with members of the Obama administration,where they planned to deliver a letter outlining their views.
The letter thanks Obama for signing the executive order that put an end to torture,but says “an executive order is not enough.” It says that knowledge and public acknowledgements of all the facts is the only way to ensure that the government will never torture again.
The creation of a “truth commission” has been a major topic of discussion since January,when Rep. John Conyers Jr.,D-Mich.,introduced a bill that would create a commission to investigate the war powers claimed by President George W. Bush,including the power to authorize torture and domestic surveillance.
The bill designates the number of members and grants the commission the ability to issue subpoenas requiring witnesses to testify. It has attracted 47 cosponsors and is in subcommittee.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi,D-Calif.,and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy,D-Vt.,have also expressed interest in creating a commission.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,D- Nev.,and Obama have both said they oppose a commission. Obama said he would prefer to focus on the future,rather than look backward.