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. Tarion

    And I would like to protest the priest, Rabbis, etc, etc to stop molesting kids. I don't see that stopping as well. So

    March 29, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  2. Skorpio

    The most effective drones are Muslim terrorists, these "drones" can be manipulated long distance by Islamic clerics, each Islamic cleric can control more than a hundred "drones" simultaneously and can not be tracked down, Islamic clerics are immune to retaliation. These Muslim clerics are always considered "holy men" no matter how many people they killed, tortured or punished.

    March 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
  3. Skorpio

    Islamic clerics as opposed to any other religion are the most perverse, violent, irrational, intolerant and discriminatory people. These rats incite the masses to commit all kinds of atrocities, their weapons are threats, coercion, hatred, vengeance, resentment, punishments, intimidation, violence & discrimination

    March 29, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  4. Ken Margo

    What do the religious leaders want? To send troops there to get killed. I think drones are the way to go
    1) cheaper
    2) Cuts down on the loss of servicemen
    3) less injuries to servicemen mean less cost to the taxpayer
    4) The enemy can't say "we're occupying" their territory
    5) Instant response
    6) keep enemy off guard
    Last but not least
    7) THEY WORK!

    March 29, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
  5. roxysmindblog

    Take these religious nuts and drop THEM via parashute on the next suspected site of terrorists – there, if they can convince the terrorists that what they are doing is wrong AND to STOP...then there will be NO NEED for drones...

    Otherwise, let them shut up and keep the drones flying....

    March 29, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Bill

      We should use the drones to kill the idiots who are complaining about the drones.

      March 29, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

    I am against War, a born Jesuit Catholic, but you are all turning this issues like a Carnival, for what? To get your face on TV. Sure, all you fanatics only care about yourself. Do you remember the CRUSADE? The Holocaust or Nixon during Vietnam, Bushes on war in Afghanistan and the middle east, they are all caused by Christians. Do not run you sympathetic sermon on Christianity, Life and War. Some of you abuse a lot of young KIDS under GODS ROOF. There were no issues from you about these Drugs all over our Neighborhoods. Face it, if it is another Republican Crook is sitting in the white House right now, All of these are FORGIVEN. HYPOCRITES!

    March 29, 2013 at 10:36 am |
  7. Final Spart4n

    Hey look what I found about this Rev Zahl. Belonged to a slave supporting church. CNN do your research before you put up spin from zealot right-wing extremists: >

    Associated Press
    > Religion Today
    > By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS , 06.01.2006, 12:13 PM
    > The Episcopal Church is poised to apologize for failing to oppose
    > slavery, but making up for its 19th century inaction won't come
    > without 21st century controversy.
    > At its national convention beginning June 13, the church is expected
    > to approve a resolution expressing regret for supporting slavery and
    > segregation. But the debate will likely get more heated when a second
    > resolution comes up, calling for a study of possible reparations for
    > black Episcopalians.
    > .....
    > Yet the gay issues debate is so fierce it extends even to slavery.
    > Some conservatives, who find themselves in the minority with their
    > opposition to gay marriage and clergy, see themselves as being
    > discriminated against. As the Rev. Paul Zahl, dean of the
    > conservative Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa.,
    > puts it: "We just find it hard this moment to take it seriously, when
    > we ourselves feel like African-Americans did 50 years ago."

    March 29, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Jim McNeely

      Let me get this straight. You are saying that we should fly armed unmanned drones to kill people without trial or recourse, and that Rev. Zahl shouldn't oppose it, because long before he was born, his denomination didn't do enough to end slavery? Do you think Rev. Zahl supports slavery, while opposing drones? Please!

      March 29, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  8. Over 40,000 denominations of insanity

    Some believe the Pope is the Anti-Christ. Some believe Obama is the Anti-Christ.

    Some believe that celibacy is appropriate for certain people, or for certain positions. It's ridiculous. Celibacy is unnatural and will continue to cause problems for the religious institutions that employ it.

    Many of the people from these same institutions advocate against abortion, but don't understand the realistic benefit of the morning after pill or even basic contraception; their unrealistic wishful thinking is causing the death of many at the hands of disease.

    In the U.S. recently we learned of the head of Lutheran CMS chastising a minister of that church for participating in a joint service for the victims of the Newtown school shooting.

    One sect calls homosexuality an abomination while the next one in the same denomination is already performing gay marriage.

    One sect, the Westboro Baptist Church believes Americans are being killed at war because America is too kind to "fags".

    One sect believes that Jesus and Satan were brothers and that Christ will return to Jerusalem AND Jackson County, Missouri.

    One sect believes women to be subservient, while another sect in the same denomination promotes equality between the sexes.

    Conflicted and unfounded right from the very beginning, Christianity continues to splinter and create divisions and more extremism as time goes by.

    March 29, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Anon

      No. No, it doesn't. People do the dividing. The philosophy of Christ does not teach this. Buddha does not teach this. Islam does not teach this. Hindi does not teach this. No influential, major religion teaches your view of division or the ignorance that you so profoundly wield. It is the person, the individual who is to blame.

      March 29, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Bill

      "It is the person, the individual who is to blame"

      The individuals collectively make up the religion. And the "religion" gives them the excuse to behave the way that they do.

      So yes, religion is what causes most of the fvcked up things that this poor planet must endure.

      March 29, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • Optimus

      Bill, your argument is flawed. Religion, as I've already said in another comment, is just a convenient scape goat. Most of the wars in history were not fought over a religious issue. It's unfortunately in our nature to be hateful, greedy, and vengeful. Religion doesn't cause you to be that way as much as you'd like to blame it. You could erase all forms of religion off the face of the Earth...and we'd still have just as much violence in the world.

      March 29, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
  9. Reality


    What instigated the attack on the Twin Towers, Flight 93 and the Pentagon?

    And what drives today's 24/7 mosque/imam-planned acts of terror and horror?

    The koran, mohammed's book of death for all infidels and muslim domination of the world by any means.

    Muslims must clean up this book removing said passages admitting that they are based on the gabriel myth and therefore obviously the hallucinations and/or lies of Mohammed.

    Then we can talk about the safety and location of mosques and what is taught therein.

    Until then, no muslim can be trusted anytime or anywhere .......................................................

    So the drones keep us up to date anytime, anywhere!!!

    March 29, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    March 29, 2013 at 6:15 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      March 29, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Saraswati

      Again, misusing the word "liar" and putting it in all caps makes you looks like as much of an idiot as the OP.

      March 29, 2013 at 9:13 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      March 29, 2013 at 9:16 am |
    • Optimus

      "That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!" What data are you referring to? If you take an average atheist and an average Christian, I bet you'd find they're both happy and healthy individuals. Some people need something to believe in, others don't. Why can't you accept that and move on? If you bash people for believing in God or practicing a religion like Christianity, it's only a sign you don't have strength in your own beliefs. FYI, I'm not religious.

      March 29, 2013 at 10:18 am |

      Grow up and read the FACTS!

      March 29, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • HotAirAce

      It's a big world out there, with lots of facts. What facts would you like us to read?

      March 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  11. King Barry

    He may be blowing people up- but at least they are no new prisioners being forced to eat well and sleep tight at GITMO.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
  12. devin

    Give the guy a break, it's one of the few things he has done right.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:53 pm |
  13. Roger that

    Religion is history's worst terrorist. Atheism is the drone we need to rid us of that pestilence.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • Optimus

      Religion is only a convenient scape goat. Even without religion, human history would still be defined by just as many wars and events marked by violence. The evil in human nature is the true problem. Your hate filled comment is a perfect example of that evil.

      March 29, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  14. I Love Drones

    Of course the religious leaders come out against this. They have no intelligence, believing in something that doesn't exist. I say hit them with a few drone strikes. Wake them up. The drones are working. God isn't.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
  15. celisti

    isn't Obama worse than even Bush with drone strikes? be careful everyone, next time Obama will get a drone flying over your head if he suspects you as an enemy!

    this is not about religion, but liberty this country has long fought.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:47 pm |
    • Lola Bunch

      You seem to think that Obama is responsible for the Patriot Acts. Your idol Bush put those into play. He has taken away FAR more rights than Obama.

      March 29, 2013 at 2:35 am |
  16. Freedom News United

    Unsurprising that someone who believes in the afterlife is promoting the idea of putting more of our sons and daughters at risk.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  17. S C Fort Myers

    If we fight according to Christian or Hebrew morality, the Muslims are sure to win since they have no such rules as to how "Infidels" are killed. Killing an "Infidel" - Anytime, Anyplace, Anyhow AnyTechnology is a good for a Muslim up to and including suicide bombings.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  18. John the Historian

    War is only death, destruction, disease, horror, misery and povery. Where are all the Christians with their swords into plowshares ????? We know Bush II the hypocrite and his war of choice in Iraq left us with 2 trillion dollar debt. No to war with Iran, a country of 80 million people. And Israel needs to create a true multi-ethnic state. Christians, Jews and Muslims need to have interfaith dialogue and intermarriage. Give peace a change. All politicians need to pledge their children to any future wars.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
  19. BADGUY

    I think all those Priest, Rabbis, etc, etc should volunteer to be "dropped into" enemy territory so THEY can give these targets a chance to surrender....before shooting them. It's easy to demand that someone ELSE'S "kid" gets "dropped in" just so we can continue to fight the Taliban in a way that maintains "chivalry" in our war fighting tactics. Tell that to the 6,000 who died in the twin towers. Tell that to the kids who would DIE trying to carry out such risky missions.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
    • DickPerry

      The drones aren't used in "enemy territory"..

      March 28, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  20. What Goes Around

    It will be funny to see the look on the faces of those lowlifes in D.C. when what goes around comes around.

    March 28, 2013 at 9:32 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.