National Council of Churches sends Bush petition opposing Iraq policy

NEW YORK (AP) – Leaders of the National Council of Churches and several member denominations marked July 4 with a petition stating vehement opposition to United States policy in Iraq.

The statement, sent to President Bush, charged, “It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception.”

The church executives denounced the national leaders who sent Americans “to fight a dishonorable war” and “the abuse of prisoners that has shamed our nation.”

The group advocated “an early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of United States troops,” something Bush ruled out in a nationally televised speech last week.

Instead, the church group favored “establishment of a credible multinational peacekeeping force” to end what it called “the humiliation of occupation,” “the violence of a civil war” and “policies that have diminished our nation’s prestige.”

The statement said the nation must restore “truth telling” and abolish “first strike” justifications for warfare. It also contended that military spending means the government cannot adequately care for poor Americans.

Alan Wisdom of the conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy responded that the statement shows the National Council is divorced “from the church members it claims to represent” and seeks Christian unity through narrow, “1960s era protest politics” on which Christians may disagree rather than pursuing matters of faith.

The Rev. Bob Edgar, National Council general secretary and a former Democratic congressman, said “the administration has listened more closely to far-right religious leaders who agree with them” than other clergy.

Besides Edgar and the National Council’s president, endorsers included heads of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Church of Christ, and executives of the United Methodist Church, to which Bush belongs. Nearly 16,000 individuals in 44 states also signed the petition.

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