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. Jeebusss

    So the the religious leaders' argument is that they'd rather send in manned jets so that if one gets shot down MORE people can die? Because last time I checked the pilots of FA-18s don't get many "I surrenders" from thirty thousand feet either.

    Honestly, possibly the stupidest logic ever, but what do you expect from the religious?

    March 28, 2013 at 5:46 pm |
  2. Kill a terrorist Create a terrorist

    Killing a terrorist with a Drone creates a terrorist. Think about it, if your just a farmer living your life and all of the sudden a hellfire missile blows up your son (collateral damage) because he "fits the profile of a terrorist" (male 18-40) you may want some revenge too. More Diplomacy and Less Bombs, I'm no tree hugger just trying put myself in the shoes of the innocent found in harms way

    March 28, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
    • Chuckles

      Well which was it, was the kid collaterol damage or was the drone aiming for him?

      First and foremost, the drone doesn't just fly over and kill a bunch of people who may or may not be terrorists, give the CIA and the government a little more credit than that.

      Second, it might create someone who wants revenge, it might also deter a crapload more people from taking up arms if they know that a random robot can fly over and bomb the crap out of the them.

      It's not as black and white as you're cutting it.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:49 pm |
  3. MSK

    Is this a news article or am I in the comedy section? What a joke.

    March 28, 2013 at 5:41 pm |
  4. Harold

    IIf we let the terrorist attackers without answer, they will try to destroy us in the name of their god. We, as Christians, should not bowl to their Aiatolas, but as they do when exploding a bomb killing lots and lots of innocent civilians lives, let them try the same kind of death, without any warning, trial, judgment, etc. Someone or something have to stop them.

    March 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
    • Sensible

      Harold, their god?? you mean you didn't know you guys worshipped the same imaginary cosmic sky fairy?? wow....you also sound like you ready to start a religous war with your "we as christians" talk. Some of us rational folks would like to resolve as many issues as possible without war, especially with that misguided faith as undercurrents flowing through your viens.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  5. TSGT Predator

    Who cares what the Church has to say, we have a seperation of Church and State. When the Church starts paying taxes then maybe they can have a say in how the country is run until then shut up and take care of your sheep.

    March 28, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Chad

      Are you saying that members of Christian Churches should not be allowed to release statements commenting on public policy???


      March 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  6. Dave

    These guys obviously don't understand war

    March 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  7. MadisonWI

    Surrender or when we find you by drone or any other means, we will take you out.... There, now they've had their chance to surrender, everyone happy?

    March 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  8. Mr. Mike

    Like the kids in 2 Kings 2:23-25, right? They had plenty of chances.
    23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. 25 And he went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  9. Safe

    Do they really think he will listen at all to them?
    In his mind, he is God...

    March 28, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
  10. Herbert

    Have to laugh. We debate right to bear arms and to restrict that we take rights away from everyone becasue a few white kids sitting in their darkened rooms playing computer games go off the wall. So, for national security we create drones and place these same kids in military establishments and give the ability to actually bomb people anywhere in the world. LOL

    March 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm |

      Agreed, enders game a reality?

      March 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
  11. Think

    Are people really this dumb ? Drones will ultimately be used by the majority of (enemy)countries against us if we keep this up. We are setting the standard now and what is acceptable use. Sorry but this has to be against the rules of engagement-the line has to drawn some where. And for those who say why would you want to put a soldier at risk? The answer is because this technology will be used by others against us on our own soil putting ultimately every civilian at risk of getting killed.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Sensible

      Think is the appropriate name for you...you are right on.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not to worry. Obama will figure out who the enemies of the state are and only those will be droned. If you are a "good" person you'll be ok

      March 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm |
  12. Sam

    We need to increase not stop the drones. A drone is the same as a plane, we just don't risk the life of the pilot.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

      Look up bradley manning and the videos he leaked, its hard for people to use aerial cameras to determine if someone is a terrorist and has a weapon, could be a journalist holding a camera, or a funeral procession of innocent people. Imagine if we lived in a country where enemy drones circled overhead, piloted by someone thousands of miles away

      March 28, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      what makes you think you don't already live in such a place?

      March 28, 2013 at 5:15 pm |
  13. Pao

    Tell that to the 911 families, the girl in Pakistan, the India, the British, and the many who died from suicide bomber. We did not send our drone there in the first place. They send their terrorist to the twin tower first. "An eye for an eye", did the religious leader skip that verse.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
    • Sensible

      Pao...so you think its ok to just keep killing innocents of another counrty? You have to know that more civilians are being killed than the so called targets we are trying to get rid off. Killing begets killing. Your eye for eye bronze age solutions is exactly that.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  14. Raven

    Yeah, so now they move them from Pakistan to Texas....

    March 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm |
  15. Mark S.

    First off, dropping bombs is the same as drones, only difference is a pilot and crew. Artillery and missles also are the same as drones in this case, All these hit targets that are not able to say "I give up".
    Second, separation of Church and State is there for a reason. Please don't let religious leaders have a say in our military plans.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Indeed so.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
    • Chad

      @Mark S. "Second, separation of Church and State is there for a reason. Please don't let religious leaders have a say in our military plans."

      =>so.. religious leaders cant express an opinion on matters of public policy?


      March 28, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • Chuckles


      Where did Mark S. say that religious leaders shouldn't be allowed to express their opinions? He was hoping to not allow any religious leader have direct effect on military plans.

      Did you seriously not understand that?

      March 28, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      "=>so.. religious leaders cant express an opinion on matters of public policy?"

      As citizens, yes, of course.

      The use of drones versus missiles versus manned aircraft remains a distinction without a difference – all mete indiscriminate death from the air.

      Arguably the technology available with drones today allows us to be more discriminating in target selection than ever before – particularly compared to situations with pilots in harm's way.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • Chad

      @GOPer "As citizens, yes, of course."

      =>what about in their official capacity as members/leaders of a Christian Church?

      Do you feel that a church releasing a statement commenting on public policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?

      March 28, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      "Do you feel that a church releasing a statement commenting on public policy violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment?"

      Of course it doesn't.

      I see you are desparately trying to pick a fight as usual.

      In this case their argument is weak. Drones are no different from our many other forms of raining indiscriminate death – other than they save the lives of servicepeople who would otherwise be in harm's way.

      March 28, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
    • Chuckles

      How are you still not getting this Chad?

      Seriously? You are so ready to jump down the throat of anyone who even implies that the Church shouldn't do something and you get uber defensive.

      What Mark S. and others are clearly pointing out that these church people can say anything at Citizens of the US and if they want to speak in an official capacity for the church, that's fine too, but they should in no way be invited to the planning table with the joint chiefs the same way that PETA can stomp their feet all they want to but aren't actually involved with congress on how to tax meat products.

      Do you understand it yet or are you still in defense mode?

      March 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  16. Ratt

    Wow, Liberals advocating War ?

    March 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • liberal disease

      its only war when a repub is in charge, when they are in charge its a necessary conflict or they say nothing at all and make believe its not there....they certainly wouldn't protest it on street corners with signs.. selective outrage is what gives liberals no credibility..

      March 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Mike D49

    uhhh who cares what these guys have to say? they don't know anything about national security, maybe the good reverend wants to be a lamb to the slaughter like Jesus but not this guy... if you're on the business end of a US drone it's for a good reason.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm |
    • william

      National security...really? I would agree with you now that we are the only ones with them but imagine a North Korea or Iran when they DO get theirs. We have always been first with wonderful technology for national security and now we are building missile defense along the west coast. Funny how we had been geographically relatively protected and OUR creation of weapons for national security renders us now a target of even very poor nations with not much to lose. With national security like this, the North Koreans hold US over a barrel. LOL

      March 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  18. bostontola

    God directed his people to ambush enemies in the bible multiple times, no request for surrender in those. Is there no limit to their hypocrisy?

    March 28, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • Spuds

      Agreed. An estimated 24 million killed by the flood. An estimated 300,000 CHILDREN killed because he/it wanted to show his might to the egyptions. An estimated >40 million total killed in the Bible. Yes, the hypocrisy is sickening.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  19. Robert

    I'm a reverend and I don't agree with this group. A drone is just a tool and not inherantly assination by remote control. On the other hand, in the hands of evil persons it could be. Nevertheless, now that we've shown China how to do it, you can bet that our enemies will have this technology soon, so we must maintain it at least as a deterrant.

    March 28, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  20. enuftrashtalk

    Ah. Ok, we'll go back to F-18's, F-15's, and various stealth planes. It will just take a little longer.

    What is this called "drone morality" ?

    March 28, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      How is this any different than sending F117s into Yugoslavia?

      Oh yeah that's right, when the drones get shot down, there are no grieving parents of the young pilots killed or taken captive by hostile regimes.

      In 1999 by a combination of luck and skill a search and rescue team extricated a F117 pilot from Yugoslavia. By not using drones, the difference is simply one of more casualties and grieving families in America.

      March 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
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