Religious leaders protest Obama drone policy
March 28th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

Religious leaders protest Obama drone policy

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) – A group of rabbis, reverends and priests has a message for President Barack Obama: stop the drone war.

In a video produced by the Brave New Foundation, a group that uses video and social media to protest against drones, Jewish and Christian leaders describe the practice as "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.

“From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl, the retired Episcopal rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, told CNN. “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

The video criticizes the Obama administration, stating that the use of war does not follow Just War Theory, which has Roman and Catholic influences.  The theory includes criteria that legitimize war, including ensuring that war is a last resort and that it is being carried out with the right intentions.

According to the religious leaders in the video, titled “Drones and Religion,” the drone program fails to meet several of these criteria.

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“The use of remote-controlled drones to assassinate targeted persons without charge, trial, or even at least the chance to surrender, is about as un-Christian a maneuver as I can imagine,” Zahl said. “I decided to protest this inhuman policy because it goes against the core principles on which I’ve built my life.”

“The Obama administration is playing God,” said Joe Nangle, a Franciscan friar at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Arlington, Virginia, in the video. “Instead of a culture of life, we are dealing death.”

The video, which includes running commentary from the six religious leaders, also includes video from speeches by Obama and his new director of the CIA, John Brennan.

“This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists,” Obama said in a  a clip from an online forum he held in January that is included in the religious leaders' video.

The video also uses biblical languages and stories to emphasize its anti-drone point.

“We are Goliath, and David is about the size of a mouse,” Zahl said in the video, alluding to the biblical story of David defeating Goliath in a one-on-one fight. “It is about that evenly matched.”

The Obama administration’s drone policy has drawn a great deal of attention in the last few months.

In February, the Senate Intelligence Committee received a classified document that seeks to justify the administration’s policy of targeting Americans overseas via drone attacks. The document provides the Justice Department's legal rationale for the controversial policy of using lethal force against U.S. citizens fighting on behalf of terrorist groups.

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After the memo’s release, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky filibustered the nomination of Brennan as CIA director because of the Obama administration’s drone policy. Paul’s filibuster shone a light on drones, leading many Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill to question their use.

The White House has defended such strikes as “legal,” “ethical” and “wise.”

“This president takes his responsibilities very seriously," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said about drones in early February. "And first and foremost that's his responsibility to protect the United States and American citizens. … The U.S. government takes great care in deciding to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist to insure precision and to avoid loss of innocent life.”

- CNN’s Pam Benson contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Foreign policy • Politics

soundoff (363 Responses)
  1. Quest ion

    Is Obama Jewish? Is he a Rabbi?

    Is Obama a member in good standing in any Synagogue?

    Is Obama a member in good standing in any church?

    Is Obama a bishop, deacon, elder, pastor, presbyter or Sunday school teacher in any church?

    Is Obama a priest of the Roman Catholic church?

    Or is he the CiC of the AF of US of A?

    What kind of syncretism is that of christian and Jewish leaders?

    Is appeasing dictators and terrorists part of his job?

    Is Obama a pacifist?

    If the answer to any or all of the above is NO. Then let him do the freaking job!

    March 28, 2013 at 3:40 pm |
  2. bostontola

    “The whole idea of killing a guy without giving the guy a chance to surrender is preemptive. That for me was completely contrary to the teachings of Christ.”

    Maybe Christ was against it, but his dad wasn't. There's a lot of killing in the old testament by god with no request for surrender.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Howard

      ""assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles"

      Well, then, does that mean it's O.K. if some James Bond type does it "up close and personal?"

      March 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • bostontola

      Howard, good point.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
  3. matt

    The President should tell them to f off.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm |
    • Howard

      Not in those words, exactly, but he could remind them about the concept of separation of church and state. It was designed as much to protect the state from the churches as the other way around.

      "I won't tell you what you ought to preach from your pulpits if you won't tell me how to steer the ship of state."

      March 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  4. Hank

    The drone war must be stopped. Forcing 70 year old women from Iowa to remove their shoes at airport security is a far better strategy for fighting terror.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • Howard

      It's really hard for some folks to wrap their heads around the idea that we're fighting an enemy that hides in the civilian population, has no capital and no state. It's an enemy that has no compunctions about killing our unarmed civilians even in places where there aren't any American military around.

      This is a radically different kind of war against a radically different kind of enemy, and it requires different rules and different weapons. Like it or not, pre-emptive strikes are our ONLY means of defense against this kind of enemy.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  5. John W

    "rabbis, reverends and priests" are the last folks that should be directing the government what to do.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
  6. Barry

    It strikes me as interesting that they, themselves would not be on hand to accept the surrender of these individuals. That responsibility will fall to someone else's kids, who happen to be serving in the military. Why should these young people be put at at unnecessary risk to uphold some intellectual's "Just War Theory"?

    March 28, 2013 at 3:10 pm |
  7. Marco Perches

    Wow, this is lunacy. How is the drone war a violation of religious principal? In the bible God instructs the Israelis to whole sale slaughter people. In the book of Samuel, God tells Saul to lead his army and slaughter the Amalekites, and then tells Saul SPECIFICALLY to kill all the men, women and specifically children not leaving a single left alive ( This is in 1st Samuel). Yet now god is offended because we used robots to kill some people? I find this hard to believe.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • Baalzabarber

      Agreed. Religious and Principals are mutually exclusive. Bunch of kooks

      March 28, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  8. Yakobi

    These religious leaders would do better to try to convince the terrorists–who are driven by their own religion–to stop being terrorists. Then there would be no need to use drones against them.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • DAR

      stop using screen name Yakobi, unless you really want to get your ass wiped

      March 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  9. Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

    “The use of remote-controlled drones to assassinate targeted persons without charge, trial, or even at least the chance to surrender, is about as un-Christian a maneuver as I can imagine,” Zahl said
    Besides being delusional he has no concept of war.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  10. Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

    “From a New Testament point of view, drones are completely appalling,” the Rev. Paul F. M. Zahl
    That has ZERO bearing on the matter

    March 28, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  11. kurtinco

    Well if the big 3 fairy tale pushers are all against drones, it almost convinces me it's time to do more.

    March 28, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  12. fsjunkie

    I've given up trying to figure out where "religious leaders" fit in to the grand scheme of things. These people HAVE been given warning and chance to surrender...from watching the LAST guy getting a kiss from the sky. Let's just call it bringing a little terror to the terrorists...or in bible language, an eye for an eye.

    March 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Thoth

    "assassination by remote control," which violates religious principles.

    However......binding people to stakes and burning them, pelting them with rocks, ripping limbs off via drawing and quartering, holding under water to see if they live (in which case they are a witch and must then be burned), the list goes on and on and on. The Christians literally invented various torture and execution equipment to serve their purpose.


    March 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      My favourite is the "Judas Cradle".
      A Christian name for a torture device made by Christians.
      And what a horrible way to die.....

      March 28, 2013 at 2:53 pm |
    • Choir Loft

      Get off your high horse, bigot. If you are really opposed to immoral unjust death, then you'd be opposed to drone killings too. What you really hate is the church and that makes you just as bad as the mindless machinery that deals murder at the push of a button.

      but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

      March 28, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

      Ah so you are against using buttons in war. I guess we should ground our aircraft.....not use our tanks.....what next....the pull of a trigger....ohhh the horrror!

      March 28, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • Thoth

      @Choir Loft – how is pointing out historical facts bigoted? I don't claim to have a problem with drones. See this is what happens when you point out facts to religious folks. If it doesn't fit their subjective, cherry-picked view of their faith, then they go on the attack. Usually it's "well that was a long time ago"....ok, still the biggest reason your religion is so engrained.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
  14. Choir Loft

    Welcome to the proud new American fascist police state. War and murder is the rule, not democracy peace or mercy.
    Why is anyone surprised at what is happening?
    Why is anyone surprised that there is not one single thing anyone can do about it?
    Land of the free? Not any more.
    but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

    March 28, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
    • Yakobi

      Move to Waziristan where you can try to yell from your choir loft and see how far it gets you.

      March 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • Steve

      Blasphemy! Why do I see women with opinions on this board!? Timothy 2:11

      March 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  15. komododr

    Oh yes the Evangilical Rights. They should sponsor the radical jihadists to come live in their parishes or homes.

    March 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm |
    • Choir Loft

      The jihadists are coming anyway. Sponsor or no sponsor. And when they arrive you'll wish you had your toothless churches back again.

      but that's just me, hollering from the choir loft...

      March 28, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
  16. WASP

    @CHRIS-topher: thanks for permission to call you christopher; still waiting on your reply to this from yesterday TOPHER.
    RESPONSE)Dude, you can call me Christopher if you want to.
    "1) the bible can be trusted to have been unedited for the 2000years it was in circulation."
    RESPONSE)Depends on what you consider "unedited." Because we have early copies of the texts, we know that what we have no is what they had then. Now, were there some changes? Yes. But it's stuff like breaking some books into two, adding chapter and verse numbers. And of course there's misspellings and other copy errors. But again, since we have those early copies, we know what they are.
    "2) please which version of the "single god book" is the correct one; torah, bible, quran, etc etc etc"
    RESPONSE)The Bible.
    "3) where can i find "proof" outside the bible that these "authurs" were truly doing as "god" said and not what their leaders wanted them to say?"
    RESPONSE)Because if they knew it was a lie, they wouldn't have went to their deaths over it.
    "4) please explain why he bible was written nearly 300 years after "jesus" was dead."
    RESPONSE)It wasn't. It was compiled into one volume that long after, but we know all of the books were written and being circulated within 60 years of Jesus' death.
    "5) please explain how you "seem" to know more than people that spent years studying biblical history while you were pooping your diaper?"
    RESPONSE) I don't believe I've ever said that.
    "6) please prove how adam and eve had cain and able, then cain killed able; thus three humans, now prove how three humans could make a population that would be genetically viable?"
    RESPONSE)"The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters." Genesis 5:4
    When you live that long, it's safe to say Adam had LOTS of children beside the three named in the Bible.

    1A) if major edits weren't made then why did the history channel make two docu.mentaries about "banned from the bible one and two"?
    2A) that is your opinion; a follower of islam would say the quran and a jewish person would say the torah.
    3A) millions have died for their faith in something; pagans died for their faith in their gods, etc etc etc so their giods are real also because they died for their gods, correct?
    4A) Jesus, as described in the New Testament, was most likely crucified on Friday April 3, 33 A.D.
    ■All four gospels and Tacitus in Annals (XV,44) agree that the crucifixion occurred when Pontius Pilate was procurator of Judea from 26-36 AD.
    ■All four gospels say the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.
    ■All four gospels agree that Jesus died a few hours before the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath (nightfall on a Friday).
    ■The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) indicate that Jesus died before nightfall on the 15th day of Nisan; right before the start of the Passover meal.
    ■John’s gospel differs from the synoptics; apparently indicating that Jesus died before nightfall on the 14th day of Nisan.
    -•125 A.D. The New Testament manuscript which dates most closely to the original autograph was copied around 125 A.D, within 35 years of the original. It is designated "p 52" and contains a small portion of John 18. (The "p" stands for papyrus.)
    •200 A.D. Bodmer p 66 a papyrus manuscript which contains a large part of the Gospel of John.
    •200 A.D. Chester Beatty Biblical papyrus p 46 contains the Pauline Epistles and Hebrews.
    •225 A.D. Bodmer Papyrus p 75 contains the Gospels of Luke and John.
    •250-300 A.D. Chester Beatty Biblical papyrus p 45 contains portions of the four Gospels and Acts.
    •350 A.D. Codex Sinaiticus contains the entire New Testament and almost the entire Old Testament in Greek. It was discovered by a German scholar Tisendorf in 1856 at an Orthodox monastery at Mt. Sinai.
    •350 A.D. Codex Vaticanus: {B} is an almost complete New Testament. It was cataloged as being in the Vatican Library since 1475.
    YOU'LL NOTICE NO SINGLE COMBINED TEXT OF THE BIBLE EXSISTS UNTIL AROUND 350 A.D. if jesus died in 33 A.D. THEN DO THE MATH. 317 years, long time i would say.
    5A) you accerting to know more than scholars that study and research the bible, stating when the bible was written or when adam died, is accerting that you know more.
    6A) please show me anywhere that a human can live 800 years, we are lucky to live 100 even with the help of modern medical practices. so that would be an opinion based off of your bible, not factual seeing no human has ever lived that long.
    March 27, 2013 at 1:25 pm
    March 28, 2013 at 6:08 am

    March 28, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
  17. Jill

    Bill Deacon, phhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhtttttt. Prevaricate your tooth fixtures more often. Therein, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Triangulate! Save the best for the alligators. Ever the bastille notches the orchestra but Wendy is not green and horses will capitulate. Filter out the log from the turnstile and cry prevalently.

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    Regale the storm to those who (6) would thump the parrot with the armband. Corner the market on vestiges of the apparent closure but seek not the evidential circumstance. Therein you can find indignant mountains of pigs and apples. Descend eloquently as you debate the ceiling of your warning fulcrum. Vacate the corncob profusely and and don’t dote on the pancreas.

    Next up, control your wood. Have at the cat with your watch on the fore. Aft! Smarties (12)! Rome wasn’t kevetched in an autumn nightie. (42) See yourself for the turntable on the escalator. Really peruse the garage spider definitely again again with brown. Now we have an apparent congestion, so be it here. Just a moment is not a pod of beef for the ink well nor can it be (4) said that Karen was there in the millpond.

    Garbage out just like the candle in the kitty so. Go, go, go until the vacuum meets the upward vacation. Sell the yellow. Then trim the bus before the ten cheese please Louise. Segregate from the koan and stew the ship vigorously.

    And remember, never pass up an opportunity to watch an elephant paint Mozart.

    March 28, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • frank

      Thanks, just a little bit.

      March 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  18. WASP

    ok easy fix.
    protest obama's use of drones; cure..........
    have drone drop bomb on protestors. ROFLMFAO!

    March 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
  19. bostontola

    I'm glad we have separation of church and state.

    March 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Jim

      please show me where "separation of church and state", in exact wording, resides in our constitution.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
    • clarity

      Every knows it is an expression for the framers' intention to separate them, jim.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • bostontola

      I don't have to Jim, that is how we operate. I would fight to keep it that way too.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Ted

      Jim, please show yourself the exit door out of our great country, and use it.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Akira

      Jim, please elaborate why you are against separation of church and state.
      And then please move to Iran, since the idea of a theocracy is so attractive to you.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  20. John Stefanyszyn

    With one "religiously righteous" word these leaders protest against killing and with another spoken word from the same mouth they deny the Preeminence of the One God, confessing that it is right to be free to worship any god.

    This is the result of the "light of freedom"...killing and self righteousness.

    This is the XES...the mark of self freedom that is in the heart (forehead) of all men.

    BUT it is Only Christ that will rule with the One Will of the Creator.

    March 28, 2013 at 1:10 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      or not since jesus is not god, except in your story book.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • William Demuth


      If you are even half as crazy as you sound, I suspect you will eventually be incarcerated.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

      Holy crap John....get back on your meds. You are one delusional cat

      March 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.