Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2019
By Patrick O’Neill
It has now been 14 months since the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 entered Naval Station Kings Bay Trident submarine base in St. Marys, Georgia to “beat swords into Plowshares.”
Kings Bay, which is armed with enough nuclear weapons to destroy life as we know it on our planet, is a place of despair and horror.
Because of the positive economic impact of the Trident base in this southeast Georgia community, residents living in the shadow of Armageddon have been brainwashed to accept Trident and the nuclear threat as a normal course of their lives.
The seven of us, all Catholic pacifists, have been charged with three felonies and misdemeanor trespass. Three of our group—Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., Elizabeth McAlister, and Mark Colville—remain incarcerated in the Glynn County Jail. Liz turned 79 and Steve turned 70 during incarceration. The others, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, Carmen Trotta, and myself, have been under house arrest (curfew) with electronic ankle monitors for more than a year.
The Kings Bay Plowshares chose to act on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We cited King’s warning of the evil triplets of militarism, racism and materialism as our motivation to disarm Trident.
In an unprecedented legal move, our team of volunteer lawyers filed motions asking that our charges be dismissed under elements of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
After testimony from expert witnesses and all of the defendants last November, US Magistrate Benjamin Cheesbro on April 26 denied our motions to dismiss with an 80-page recommendation to US District Court Judge Lisa Wood who will preside over our trial.
However, the testimony of the seven of us did convince Mag. Cheesbro that our sincerely held religious beliefs did in fact lead us to engage in “Sacramental symbolic denuclearization” at Kings Bay.
And while the court found that our cause is a legitimately religious one and that our faith is sincere, Mag. Cheesbro concluded that imprisoning us for up to 20 years is “not a coercive response” to our faith-based actions, and that even if it is, such imprisonment is the government’s “least coercive response.”
We will appeal Mag. Cheesbro’s ruling to presiding Judge Wood, and our trial is expected to be scheduled for later this summer.
—Patrick O’Neill cofounded and lives at the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker House in Garner, NC. Learn more about the Kings Bay Plowshares and how to be in touch with them in jail.
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