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. andy

    Yes stop the Drone war, so we can go back to Land Wars and carpet bombing and kill even MORE innocents... /facepalm

    March 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  2. Truthis

    And who gives a flip what that bunch of Voodoo salesmen think?

    March 28, 2013 at 9:26 pm |
  3. Saganist

    What about roadside bombs and IEDs?? Where is the trial for the victims there? Way more deaths and victims from these than drones. Drones are a poor retaliation for these as drones and their weapons are super expensive. Here's a possible deal: You guys stop the IEDs and roadside bombs and we'll stop drones?

    March 28, 2013 at 9:24 pm |
  4. Ed

    Those religious leaders aught to be telling the Taliban to stop killing women and innocent children. America was at peace with her self when she was brazenly attacked. The war on terror is not "An eye for an eye" struggle. It is about keeping the nation from another sneaky attack.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:19 pm |
  5. David Killed Goliath

    “'We are Goliath, and David is about the size of a mouse', Zahl said in the video."

    So, the USA is Goliath, and the terrorists are David? Didn't David kill Goliath? How is Zahl's "David/Goliath" analogy supposed to garner support to not use drones against the mouse terrorists?

    March 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  6. McBob79

    And we were told George Bush was "spying" on all of us and violating our civil rights. Are you kidding me? Obama's tactics are more intrusive... oh yeah, and by the way, what about the Patriot act? Guess it's OK now that Obama is president. What a bunch of hypocrites.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Who says the patriot act is a good thing?

      It is the opposite of everything that people who say they believe in liberty stand for.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  7. Send Rev. Paul over

    Rev. Paul can go do good deeds where the hit list is. Maybe he'll give the guys a chance to surrender peacefully.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:02 pm |
  8. me

    Jesus would know a drone if he tripped over one, he was alive 2000 years ago. As for god if he didn't want drones he would stop them. This is a war make no mistake, their are people being brought up today to do nothing but hate and cause death to those who diagree with their views on god, sound familar, this is just the last religion to get the memo, so its being sent out by drones to break the communication barrier. People who kill their own and others, have no place on this planet. If enough survive and read that memo I was talking about then maybe just maybe they will put down their guns. If not what ever awaits us on the other side, well they will just know sooner.

    Boom Boom

    March 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm |
    • Stiles

      Amen to that.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
  9. Ronnie from New Orleans,LA

    I am very religious, but accusing President Obama of an unjust war is pure stupididy!! Some of these religious men said nothing when body bag after body bag of young men and women were showing up at the airports killed by terrorist!! I did not see one rabbi, priest, or evangelical!! But I tell you who i did notice, is all the family members and especially fatherless and motherless chidren greeting a cold body that used to be someone warm they loved and hugged!! Drons have cut down the number of our Veterans getting killed by 40% or more!! I think this Drone success is too much for these religious fanatic to handel cooming under the command of President Obama! Stop the Stupidity and remember how usless the Crusades were and how some of your own past Priest condemed these Knight that were the POPES kNIGHTS AND FIGHTER TO DEATH CALLING THEM HERITICS JUST BECAUSE THEY WERE AMASSING MONEY!!

    March 28, 2013 at 8:41 pm |
  10. jgower

    Even a low-information voter has to admit that Obama is the only Nobel Peace Prize winner with a drone hit list.

    March 28, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There's realpolitik for you.

      March 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Chilipepper

      Lowest information voters tend to be the highest welfare states. Hm. Those would be the red ones.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:12 pm |
  11. RainCityLady

    How about stopping ALL war period. This is the 21st century. Isn't time men put away their foolish toys of war for good?

    March 28, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • Craig

      As long as their are multiple religions and resources across the world, there will always be war.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
  12. toonah

    Why doesn't CNN rename "Belief Blog" to "Warmongers and Simpletons"?

    March 28, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Which of these are you?

      March 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  13. American

    Maybe they would a plane full of returning dead service men to pray over?

    March 28, 2013 at 8:14 pm |
  14. Roger that

    “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.”

    Rev. Paul

    The drones are killing terrorists. Bad people. Considering the incredibly enormous number of innocent people killed by God, the father, son, holy ghost, or whatever you want to call him, your argument is worthless.

    March 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  15. David

    I am sorry to say, war is not won by Jesus or any other religion. It is won by men, killin other men. There is no other way, death. There is nothing christian about war, never has been. When troops are sent in, it is not Jesus the leadership is looking for.

    March 28, 2013 at 8:12 pm |
  16. Alternatives

    So what would they prefer? Its war. Boots on the ground? F-16s? Tanks? – If the POTUS was republican, they wouldnt say a word.

    March 28, 2013 at 8:10 pm |
    • Chilipepper

      They sure didn't say a damned word when the Shrub King used them.

      March 28, 2013 at 9:13 pm |
  17. Not Deluded

    "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"???

    What does christianity have to do with the way our government conducts it's business?? This a Secular nation, not a theocracy! And it's long past the time for christians to get with the program! The United States government should forever be incapable of ever being swayed by the argument that it is "violating religious principles"! "Religious principles" Do Not have Any place in our laws and government! The Do NOT Apply!!!

    March 28, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  18. allenwoll

    .They ALL have an opportunity to surrender : RIGHT NOW ! ! !

    March 28, 2013 at 8:00 pm |
  19. NO MERCY


    March 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
  20. wsucougfan

    This is the most rediculous claim I've heard from the religious right. Obama is wrong because he is protecting Americans? Where were these nutjobs when Bush was President? Didn't hear any complaints then... I am amazed that any person could stand behind not using drones. What's the difference if the pilot is right there or 5,000 miles away – they both look through the same instruments in the middle of the night. I am so glad I am an athiest and can distance myself from the ludicrous thinking of those who a claim to have a loving god.

    March 28, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
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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.