KINGS BAY PLOWSHARES ACTIVISTS PRESENT RELIGIOUS FREEDOM DEFENSE
Attorneys for the seven Kings Bay Plowshares defendants today filed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act Memo in federal court in Brunswick, GA, as their response to the court’s request for supplemental briefings that would justify the defendants’ use of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in their defense. The RFRA requires the government to prove a compelling state interest if it acts to restrict a person’s free exercise of his or her religious beliefs.
The defendants will also ask the court to hold a hearing to allow them to testify about their faith-based opposition to nuclear weapons. The Memo points out that “Under RFRA the law is clear, and the relevant facts in this case are also clear. The defendants exercised their sincerely held Catholic beliefs by symbolically disarming nuclear weapons. The government is substantially burdening the defendants’ exercise of those same beliefs by seeking to enforce, through criminal prosecution, federal statutes that prohibit trespass and protect property (‘trespass and property statutes’). Under RFRA, this places a heavy burden of justification on the government, which the government here fails to satisfy.”
Along with the RFRA Memo, an affidavit from each of the defendants was also filed with the court. In the affidavits, the defendants speak about their sincerely-held religious beliefs and how these beliefs motivated their nonviolent acts of prophetic witness against the government’s possession of nuclear weapons, and the use of such weapons to threaten people, nations and all life.
To quote from the Memo: “The defendants’ symbolic actions of disarmament are within the tradition of a long history of similar actions carried out by Plowshares activists who take their name from the Christian Bible verse, Isaiah 2:4: ‘He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.'”
In part of her affidavit, defendant, Clare Grady, details her sincerely held religious beliefs: “My going to the U.S. Naval Base at Kings Bay to symbolically disarm the Trident in an act of non-violent symbolic disarmament was an act of conscience that reflects my sincerely held religious beliefs, informed by my reading of the Bible, by Church teaching, by the signs of the times, the assistance of competent people, and the Holy Spirit…The symbols we used reveal the bloodshed and violence inherent in the Trident. These symbols are: Stepping over a line, of which, if I do not step over, harm will continue in my name; Carefully pouring blood to reveal the bloodshed in the Trident Weapons system and to express my personal atonement for that bloodshed; Using a hammer, as a disarmament tool invoking Isaiah’s call to “beat swords into plowshares…The hammer I used was made with metal from melted down guns, weapons converted into peaceful tools. The message I spray-painted on the sidewalk in front of the administration building for the Trident (Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic/ SWFLANT) expressed my intention to disarm Trident and heed the biblical call to Love One Another. Crime scene tape is an obvious symbol to alert of a crime. We used this symbol to name the Trident weapons system as a crime, a crime against God, against humanity, and against all God’s Creation.”
(Steve Kelly’s affidavit can be read HERE. )
The Kings Bay Naval Station is home to at least six ballistic missile submarines. Each submarine carries 20 Trident II D5 MIRV thermonuclear missiles. Each of these missiles carries four or more individual nuclear warheads ranging in destructive power from 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons. To understand the massive destructive power of these weapons, remember that the nuclear bomb which destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima had an explosive power of only15 kilotons.
The seven defendants are: Elizabeth McAlister ,78, Father Stephen Kelly, 69 both currently incarcerated in the Glynn County Correctional Facility; Mark Colville, 55, Clare Grady, 59, Martha Hennessy, 62, Patrick O’Neill, 62, and Carmen Trotta, 55, all currently out on $50,000 bond and w/electronic ankle monitors and curfews.
To write to Steve and Liz:
Elizabeth McAlister #015633
Stephen Kelly #015634
Glynn County Detention Center,
100 Sulphur Springs Road, Brunswick, GA 31520
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