Readers of the Humanist may have noticed that we have yet to put Barack Obama on the cover. (Could we be the only magazine on earth that hasn’t?) I’m troubled to think that if we had chosen to feature Obama this time around, his picture would have been accompanied by a question along the lines of: “Mr. President, how about the audacity of justice?”

Humanists certainly scratch their heads in response to the new administration’s coddling of the faith-based initiative, but we must also admit that the president has vastly larger fish to negotiate from the fryer (the economy, North Korea, Iran, healthcare, to name a few). But when it comes to the issue of the war on terror—because, really, isn’t that what’s being continued?—Obama has fallen short on cleaning up what he can of the mess George W. Bush left behind.

It’s true that President Obama has begun the herculean task of transferring detainees out of Guantanamo, and he continues to deal with strong resistance to bring any of them onto U.S. soil while also trying to convince other countries to do what we won’t. But in regards to the U.S. torture program—past and present—there seems to be no clear mandate to ensure that justice is served. One should also note that the responsibility to do so, and any complicity in the practice or knowledge of torture of enemy combatants, terror suspects, or any human being protected by the Geneva Conventions (along with statutes in the U.S. Code and other international treaties), doesn’t fall on this president’s shoulders alone. The truth is that the United States has been torturing individuals suspected of plots against America for a long, long time. (Bush & Co.’s particular hubris was to try to make it legal). Why is this so? Why are high-ranking government officials who had a hand in torture being protected? And why does the public (including, according to one survey, a majority of evangelical Christians) so often equivocate on what exactly constitutes torture while also focusing on hypothetical scenarios in which unambiguous acts of torture would be justifiable? As the cover of this issue of the Humanist puts it: has torture become sacred?

So as the nation moves through these very murky waters, it’s my hope that the old cynicism is held at bay and that the president has the audacity to do the right thing. Let us remind him, again and again, of the words of Thomas Paine (quoted in this issue’s Humanist Profile): “in America, THE LAW IS KING.”

Jennifer Bardi is the editor of the Humanist.