Federal judge hears Kings Bay Plowshares’ motion to dismiss charges under RFRA

2018 photo of the Kings Bay Plowshares

from the Kings Bay Plowshares

BRUNSWICK, GA – On August 7, the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 made oral arguments in federal court concerning the denial of the pre-trial motions to dismiss the charges against them.  Appearing for the first time before Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, who will be the trial judge, four of the pro-se defendants and two of the lawyers spoke about why they felt Magistrate Benjamin Cheesbro had improperly ruled against them after two days of hearings last November. The main focus of the August 7 hearing was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which is being used for the first time in a case like this.

Defendants were only given 90 minutes for all arguments. The government used 30 minutes of its allotted time.  The courtroom was packed with more than 60 supporters inside, including actor and activist Martin Sheen, and 25 were kept outside for lack of space. It was the first time this year that the three defendants still incarcerated in the Glynn County Detention Center for 16 months – Mark Colville, Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ, and Elizabeth McAlister – saw their codefendants.  They have been prevented from in-person legal preparation since last November.

Stephanie McDonald, attorney for Martha Hennessy, began by arguing that the government failed to meet its obligations under RFRA. The law requires that there be specific and individual consideration for each defendant’s beliefs and actions. 
Defendant Clare Grady said that the government’s attempted criminalization of the defendants’ religious practice is not only an undue substantial burden but is also a violation of RFRA, the law of the land. Mark Colville, Patrick O’Neill, and Carmen Trotta also spoke in court. (scroll below to read court statements)
Bill Quigley, attorney for Elizabeth McAlister, began the closing argument by reminding the court of the bedrock religious belief “Thou shalt not kill.” He summed up his comments by noting that the atrocities committed by Hitler and Stalin would pale in comparison were the Trident nuclear weapons ever used.  He said, “In 30 minutes after launch, millions of innocent people would be killed.”
The judge invited additional responses within a week to arguments made today. She indicated that she would give thoughtful attention to these complex issues, and if necessary, would promptly schedule a trial.
Click here to read the RFRA oral arguments from five of the defendants (posted on August 7).

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Plowshares activists Patrick O’Neill, Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, and Carmen Trotta with Martin Sheen and members of their legal team. August 7, 2019

from the Brunswick News

The line was out the door an hour before the hearing was scheduled. Not long after, word came that fewer than 10 spaces were left in the courtroom. Inside were around 50 people in the gallery — including Emmy award-winning actor Martin Sheen — another 30 or so waiting outside, an enhanced law enforcement presence and a backup chiller for courthouse air conditioning.
It was one of the more unusual mornings for the Frank M. Scarlett Federal Building.

Provided with around 90 minutes of time, the Kings Bay Plowshares defendants and their attorneys had the opportunity to counter U.S. Magistrate Judge Benjamin Cheesbro’s report and recommendations that their request to throw out the charges against them and dismiss the case be denied.

Before entering the courthouse, Sheen expressed a belief held by many there. As a young man in New York City, he met Dorothy Day — grandmother of defendant Martha Hennessy — and became involved with the Catholic Worker movement, of which the defendants are also a part.

“I’ve been inspired most of my life by people who take the gospel seriously and live the gospel as a basic truth,” Sheen said. “If what you believe doesn’t cost you anything, then what is it good for? I think that’s the fundamental value of the Plowshares’ action.”

In April 2018, the seven — Hennessy, Father Stephen Michael Kelly, Mark Peter Colville, Clare Therese Grady, Elizabeth McAlister, Patrick Michael O’Neill and Carmen Trotta — cut through fencing and concertina wire at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay under the cover of night and allegedly vandalized a building and static missile display.

The alleged vandalism is a matter of law rather than action — what the federal government perceives as property destruction is considered by the defense as symbolic nuclear disarmament, a necessary exercise of their Catholic faith, protected under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Defense attorney Stephanie McDonald argued the government, following the defendants’ arrest, had a legal obligation under RFRA to react in the least-restrictive manner possible, and a prosecution on three felonies and a misdemeanor was not close to that standard.

O’Neill and Colville, given their chances to speak before the court, openly speculated as to what could have been a more-restrictive action, like possibly a firing squad or public flogging.

McDonald said it was key to the exercise of their religious beliefs that the defendants conduct their symbolic nuclear disarmament at the site, inside the base’s perimeter fencing, and that this couldn’t be accomplished the same outside the fence line.

As discussed at length in a two-day hearing in November, the defendants hold a belief in the primacy of conscience, that inaction is the same as complicity, and that according to their faith they were compelled to act because nuclear weapons are blasphemous.
McDonald also mentioned that per earlier court rulings, the government needed to develop well-defined and particular compelling interests in halting or otherwise hindering the defendants’ religious exercise, whereas in this case there are only general ones expressed regarding security and property protection.

And in regard to a less-restrictive action, she referred to the base commander’s own testimony that previous ban-and-bar letters worked well in keeping people from coming back on base property.

The prosecution argued that such particulars aren’t necessary, that enforcing policies protecting property and access to the base does not amount to a substantial burden on the defendants, who could have done their symbolic nuclear disarmament without violating the law.

The fact that both could be accomplished, the argument went, is made clear by the defendants saying that ban-and-bar letters would be fine. If those letters would keep them off the property, and the defendants are OK with that, then they didn’t need to be on the base to conduct their protest.

What it came down to, and what the prosecution touched on, was these defendants weren’t likely to commit the same acts at Kings Bay, but may well do so elsewhere. The defendants have lengthy histories of involvement in this movement which included what courts and juries over the decades decided were criminal violations of the law, regardless of the intentions behind the actions.

So, the only punishment that could lead to a certainty on the part of the government that the defendants wouldn’t engage in similar behavior elsewhere in the next few years, given the chance, is a conviction on the charged counts and a sentence involving prison time.

U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, in her questioning, spent notable time going over whether the surreptitiously breaking in to the nuclear submarine base was a part of the defendants’ religious exercise as well, which was confirmed by the defense. She also pushed on where the defense drew the line regarding the base protest — if they had to be within the perimeter, how close to the nuclear weapons did they need to be, and what would RFRA say about that?

Although anything is possible, the direction of the questions indicate that like Cheesbro, Wood takes the defendants’ beliefs and arguments quite seriously, but also takes quite seriously the government’s interest in national security and protection of property. If the case is allowed to continue, the court would follow with a scheduling order so both sides can prepare for a trial.








Martha, Patrick, Carmen and Clare, with ankle bracelets, arrive in Georgia prior to their August 7 court hearing


BRUNSWICK DIVISION ____________________________________________________________________________




Case No. 2:18cr22


DEFENDANT’S POST-HEARING BRIEF ________________________________________________________________________

In summary, this Court must subject the Government’s ongoing punishment of these religious Defendants to strict scrutiny. The Government has not presented evidence sufficient to carry its specific burdens as set out in the law. It is not the role of this Court to do the Government’s job for them, and this Court must rule as a matter of law that the Government has persistently failed in its RFRA obligations. This case must be dismissed.

This post-hearing brief is filed in response to the Court’s order for any post-hearing brief to be filed within 7 days from the date of the oral argument (held on August 7, 2019) on the Defendants’ Objections to the Magistrate Judge’s Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) that was issued on April 26, 2019 (Dkt. Doc. 411).1

With regard to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq., each Defendant has testified concerning her or his sincerely-held religious beliefs, which

1 This hearing brief incorporates and assumes all arguments by all Defendants in this case provided in their Supplemental Briefs on RFRA in September 2018, in their Supplemental Evidentiary Briefs on RFRA in January 2019, and in their Objections to the R&R in May 2019. In addition, each Defendant adopts the arguments of every other Defendant, including the arguments made at the oral argument on August 7, 2019.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 2 of 11

motivated her or him to perform nonviolent sacramental acts of symbolic disarmament at religiously significant locations inside the perimeter fence – for example, as close as possible to the site of the idolatry and sin, or where the prophetic message could be more effectively preached.2 Magistrate Judge Cheesbro found every Defendant credible in testifying about their sincerely-held religious beliefs. The Government has long known that in this case it is seeking to punish and prevent what is a peaceful and sincere religious exercise. It knew this soon after the arrests on April 5, 2018; it certainly knew this during the summer of 2018; or after the evidentiary hearing in November 2018; or when it chose not to object to the Magistrate Judge’s factual findings. Therefore, this Court must apply strict scrutiny to the Government’s actions. The Government’s ongoing refusal to comply with the particularized and individual assessments required by RFRA leave this Court with only one judicial remedy – the criminal charges must be dismissed.
I. Where to “Draw the Line” Inside the Perimeter Fence

At the oral argument, the Court asked the hypothetical question of “where to draw the line” inside the perimeter fence. That is, hypothetically, how would RFRA operate if the Defendants’ sacramental actions had taken place at a location closer to the Trident missiles?3 The Supreme Court in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418 (2006), Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., 573 U.S. 682 (2014), and Holt v. Hobbs, 135 S.Ct. 853 (2015), provided the principles for drawing that line.4 It is possible to draw a line where,

See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 8-9. For convenience, citations to Defendants’ Objections will be made only to Defendant McAlister’s filing.

3 The Government asserted at oral argument that the Defendants were not near any nuclear weapons on the Kings Bay naval base.

See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 17-19.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 3 of 11

depending upon the nature of the religious exercise, the Government has an interest that is so compelling that it warrants a “no exceptions” policy. The burden is on the Government to produce affirmative evidence and prove where it has a compelling marginal interest to draw that line.5 One example in the case law is that if the religious exercise causes harm or detriment to other parties, then that might warrant imposing a “no exceptions” policy on a category of defendant actions.6 But for cases like the present one, involving only peaceful, sacramental actions of symbolic disarmament,7 the lawful limit of a “no exceptions” policy would vary depending upon the facts of each case. On the issue of where that line is at Kings Bay, the evidence is solely in the Government’s possession, so the requirement that the burden of production is on the Government, as well as the burden of persuasion, makes perfect sense. Even if one assumes that, on the Kings Bay naval base, there must exist some line beyond which no unauthorized person should be permitted to go, even for religious purposes, such an assumption would be irrelevant to this case. Here, the base area consists of 17,000 acres containing a wide variety of land uses; the Defendants were never near any nuclear weapon (as the Government admitted at oral argument); and the evidence shows that at least some sacramental actions occurred at a location within the perimeter fence where the Government itself conducts public tours (the “missile shrine” or “static missile display”).8 The burden is on the Government to produce evidence and justify why it has banned religious exercises of any

See generally Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 16-26.

See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 23-24.

7 The evidence shows that there was never any harm posed to any person. See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 21-22.

8 As for the other primary location where some Defendants performed nonviolent sacramental actions, the Limited Area, there is also no evidence to justify a “no exceptions” policy for religious exercise. It is the Government’s burden to produce such evidence.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 4 of 11

nature from a location open to public tours. Captain Lepine testified that no religious exercises would be allowed anywhere inside the perimeter fence under any circumstances.9

The Supreme Court’s refusal to be satisfied with mere assertions of general governmental interests, and its requirement that the Government particularize its claim of a compelling interest, applies also to any types of property damaged by the Defendants. While the Defendants cut several padlocks and fences, spray-painted a sidewalk, and removed letters on a sign and a piece of a missile shrine, no property of any importance to military operations or national security was damaged.10 Just as the Government must establish for the Court a location’s degree of importance to governmental interests, the Government must also establish that its interest in protecting particular padlocks, fences, signs and a missile shrine compels a “no exceptions” policy for religious exercise. The Government asserts, in effect, that it can erect a perimeter fence wherever it wishes, and it can impose a “no religious exceptions” policy for every location, padlock and blade of grass inside that fence, without needing a justification that passes strict judicial scrutiny. The Government asserts that the Defendants’ RFRA rights do not extend past the perimeter fence, wherever that fence happens to be.

The case law of the Supreme Court and of the Eleventh Circuit clearly rejects the Government’s position. The RFRA rights of these Defendants do not automatically stop at the perimeter fence. If the Supreme Court in O Centro (by a vote of 8 – 0) rejected the Government’s blanket “no exceptions” claim under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, and that Court

9 Dkt. Doc. 316 at 270, lines 11-13 (“members of the general public are not authorized access inside the fence line in any capacity to exercise their religious rights”). See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 9-10.

10 See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 24-25.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 5 of 11

instead demanded a justification particularized to the situation,11 then this Court must also require a particularized justification for locations and property on Kings Bay naval base. If the Supreme Court in Holt (by a vote of 9 – 0) rejected a categorical “no exceptions” claim for a personal-grooming policy (which allegedly maintained prison security by mitigating escape schemes and preventing the smuggling of contraband into a prison), and that Court instead demanded a particularized justification,12 then this Court must also require the Government to produce a particularized justification for routine tour sites and ordinary padlocks and sign letters at Kings Bay. If the Eleventh Circuit required a particularized justification in Davila v. Gladden, 777 F.3d 1198 (11th Cir. 2015), for a prohibition on religious articles coming into a prison,13 then this Court must also require the Government to produce a particularized justification for a “no exceptions” policy on religious sacramental actions at sites at Kings Bay regularly open to the public.14 Without such evidence in the record, this Court has no basis for allowing the Government’s “no exceptions” policy everywhere inside the perimeter fence.15
II. Clarifying “Least Restrictive Means

Even if this Court overlooks the lack of a particularized assessment, and it allows the Government’s unsubstantiated claim to a compelling interest everywhere inside the perimeter fence, the Court must not excuse the Government’s failure to make an individualized

11 See 546 U.S. at 430-37.

12 See 135 S.Ct. at 863-67.

13 See 777 F.3d at 1205-07 (“the Defendants’ [a number of prison employees] generalized statement of interests, unsupported by specific and reliable evidence, is not sufficient to show that the prison restriction furthered a compelling governmental interest”).

14 See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 18-19.

15 Defendants have argued extensively why Captain Lepine’s speculative testimony is inadequate, given the inconsistencies within the Government’s evidence, and the questions left unanswered. See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 26-31.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 6 of 11

determination of the “least restrictive means” for each Defendant. The burden is on the Government to provide testimony, produce evidence and prove, with respect to each Defendant considered individually, that pursuing these criminal charges is the Government’s least restrictive means of achieving its compelling interests.16

At the oral argument, the Government blurred the distinction between alternative means of achieving a governmental interest (with the burden of justification on the Government) and alternative religious exercises available to the Defendants. Least restrictive means and alternative religious exercises are two completely distinct concepts. The fact that a particular Defendant might consider accepting an accommodation that allows sacramental action of symbolic disarmament inside the perimeter fence (if the Government were ever to create such an accommodation) is completely consistent with the fact that on April 4, 2018, when no religious exercises were permitted on Kings Bay naval base under any circumstances, that same Defendant felt compelled by Catholic teaching and primacy of conscience to enter the base to perform a nonviolent sacramental action at a religiously meaningful location. The decision rule for choosing among alternative governmental means was created by Congress – under RFRA, the Government must employ the means that is least restrictive on a Defendant’s religious exercise, so long as that means is equally effective at achieving the Government’s interests. The Government must use least restrictive means in order to fulfil its legal obligations. By contrast, as we argue in the next section, the Government (including the courts) has no authority

16 The Government’s caricature at oral argument that Defendants would require base security personnel to go through a RFRA least-restrictive-means checklist prior to making an arrest was amusing, but not to be taken seriously. Defendants have never argued this. What the Defendants have argued is that in the more than 16 months since the arrests, the Government knew, or should have known, with near certainty, that these Defendants were conducting themselves as peaceful, religious people.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 7 of 11

whatsoever to decide which other religious exercises would have had equal value for achieving a Defendant’s religious obligations.

The Government also raised the “straw argument” that “less punitive” does not mean “less restrictive,” when Defendants have never made such an argument. It is factually possible, as is true in this case, for a means to be less harsh while also being less restrictive of religious exercise. An order barring a Defendant from the naval base would be less punitive than imprisonment for up to 20 years, but it would also be less restrictive on the Defendant’s religious practices, because the Defendant would still remain free to engage in prophetic witness against nuclear weapons at other times and locations. Or an accommodation permitting a sacramental action inside the perimeter fence under certain restrictions would be less punitive, but it would also be less restrictive of religious freedom.17 Degrees of punitive force are indeed irrelevant under RFRA, but Defendants have never argued that they were relevant.

In addition, the Government misleadingly argued that there is “no evidence” that the Defendants would comply with any means less restrictive than imprisonment. The Government ignores the critical point that the burden is on the Government to produce such evidence. And in fact, the evidence proves that the Government has made no attempt, over the course of 16 months, to assess whether any of the less restrictive means proposed by the Defendants would be ineffective. And it has ignored the positive evidence by some individual Defendants that such means would in fact be effective in their cases.18 The Government blatantly disregards both the law and the evidence.

17 Some Defendants testified that they would in fact consider the option of practicing symbolic disarmament with accommodation inside the perimeter fence if that were permitted. See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 34-35.

18 See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 33 and note 39, 34-35 and note 40.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 8 of 11

It is reasonable to conclude that the Government is trying to prevent religious actions like the Defendants’ simply because it does not want them to occur. But the Government has no legitimate (let alone compelling) interest in imposing such prior restraint. RFRA restricts the Government’s actions to the least restrictive means that would be effective against an individual Defendant, and under RFRA each Defendant is guaranteed such an individual assessment. The Court must not allow the Government’s ongoing RFRA violation to continue.
III. Acknowledging a Substantial Burden

The Defendants are entitled under RFRA to strict judicial scrutiny of the Government’s use of imprisonment to punish their nonviolent sacramental actions. The Government argues that the R&R correctly recommends that criminal prosecution for engaging in a religious practice does not constitute a substantial burden on that practice, and that the Government’s actions need not pass strict judicial scrutiny. But if having a policy against permitting peaceful sacramental action, prosecuting someone for engaging in such a religious practice, and imprisoning someone to prevent such a religious practice in the future do not merit strict scrutiny by the courts, then what governmental action would? If the Supreme Court in Holt (by a vote of 9 – 0) held that threatening a prisoner with disciplinary action for growing a 1⁄2-inch beard (out of religious motivation) requires strict scrutiny,19 then surely criminal prosecution for engaging in a nonviolent sacramental action also merits strict scrutiny.20

The Government argues that the Defendants are not deserving of strict scrutiny because they could have engaged in some other religious practices, outside the perimeter fence. The Government ignores the uncontested testimony of the Defendants that Catholic teaching and

19 See 135 S.Ct. 862-63.
20 Holt, 135 S.Ct. at 862-63; see Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 13, 3-7.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 9 of 11

primacy of conscience required them to undertake their religious sacramental actions within the perimeter fence.21 The Government likewise ignores the Supreme Court’s mandate that the Government (including the courts) must stay out of the business of deciding which religious exercises would have been equally valuable religious substitutes for these Defendants. The Government would have this Court decide that performing symbolic disarmament at the Bancroft Memorial, outside the perimeter fence, would have been “just as good” from a religious perspective. The Supreme Court, however, has sensibly ordered this Court not to make such a religious determination.

The Government has also attempted to read into RFRA, with absolutely no basis in case law, a “permission prong” and an “exhaustion of administrative remedies” requirement – that unless a Defendant first seeks governmental permission to conduct a religious exercise, then that Defendant forfeits her RFRA right to strict scrutiny if the Government brings criminal charges against her after that religious exercise.22 If such an argument were to prevail, then it would threaten to eliminate all RFRA protections as defenses in criminal cases, because there would be no limit to the Government’s imagining what else a Defendant “should have done first,” before engaging in the Defendant’s religious exercise. RFRA, however, does not impose an “exhaustion” prerequisite. Moreover, in the present case, the Government’s argument that, according to Scott Bassett, there existed a process for seeking permission to conduct sacramental action at the static missile display inside the perimeter fence at Kings Bay is disingenuous,

21 See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 8-9 and note 9.

22 If the Government is suggesting, on the other hand, that the Defendants could have taken a “tour” of the missile display, and that a “tour” would have been “just as good” as sacramental symbolic disarmament, then the analysis in the previous paragraph addresses this impermissible proposition.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief Page 10 of 11

because the Government knows full well that Captain Lepine’s policy was not to allow any such religious exercises.23

In conclusion, as noted above, this Court must subject the Government’s ongoing

punishment of these religious Defendants to strict scrutiny. The Government has not presented evidence sufficient to carry its specific burdens as set out in the law. It is not the role of this Court to do the Government’s job for them, and this Court must rule as a matter of law that the Government has persistently failed in its RFRA obligations. This case must be dismissed.

As Defendant Clare Grady stated during her oral argument, RFRA has been a step forward in protecting religious freedom in this country. And she reminded everyone that this case has arisen from God’s command to love all people. She said:

“Justice is what love looks like in public.” Justice is about well-being for all people and all creation, no exceptions. Nuclear weapons have become an idol, replacing trust in God with the willingness to threaten and destroy all of God’s creation in the illusory pursuit of maintaining power and control.”

RFRA requires our Government not to suppress peaceful, sacramental actions motivated by such religious beliefs, unless the Government’s actions pass the strict scrutiny required by our law. This Court is the protector of that civil right for these Defendants. On the history and record of this case, this Court has no other option than to dismiss all criminal charges against these Defendants. Respectfully submitted this 14th day of August 2019.

/s William P. Quigley
William P. Quigley, admitted pro hac vice Loyola New Orleans – 7214 St. Charles Avenue New Orleans, LA 70118 Quigley77@gmail.com

23 See Defendant McAlister’s Objections to the R&R, Doc. 429, at 9-10.

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Defendants’ Post-Hearing Brief

Page 11 of 11

Attorney for Defendant Elizabeth McAlister

/s/ Jason Clark

JASON CLARK, P.C. GA Bar No. 127181 2225 Gloucester St. Brunswick, GA 31520 jason@jasonclarkpc.com


I hereby certify that on this 14th day of August 2019, I electronically filed the foregoing with the Clerk of Court by using the CM/ECF system, which will send a notice of electronic filing to all counsel registered for electronic service.

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William P. Quigley, admitted pro hac vice Attorney for Defendant Elizabeth McAlister


Statement by Mark Colville to The Federal Court, Southern District of Georgia (RFRA Oral Arguments)

Brunswick, Georgia, August 7, 2019

Good morning Judge Wood. My name is Mark Colville, and I’m pleased to meet you. I won’t bore you with the boring details of my boring life—much of that is already part of the court record, which incidentally might make for some good bedtime reading if you’re ever having trouble falling asleep.

I will however call your attention to the presence of my wife, Luz Catarineau, and our youngest son Isaiah, who have driven all the way down from Connecticut to be here in the courtroom today. By the way, in the event that this whole trial thing ends up crashing and burning for me, Luz would like to speak to you about getting me assigned to the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, which is about an hour’s drive from our home.

Okay, so with that, I will preface what remains of these comments by saying that I appear before you today not fully prepared, which is why I’ve chosen to read a written statement rather than risk losing focus in a monologue. The obstacles to my preparation are twofold:

First, the Glynn County Detention Center—my home for the past sixteen months—does not afford pro-se defendants like me with anything resembling the resources necessary to prepare an adequate defense. There is no computer access, no e-mail or internet, no access to a library, and only limited and sporadic access to a law library.

Actually, judging from the email communications that my stand-by counsel received from your office, it’s not clear to me that your are aware that I have no access to email. The only regular means of communication that I have with counsel or co-defendants is through 3×5 inch postcard and phone calls that are expensive, surveilled and recorded.

Secondly, for over 9 months now this court has denied me the opportunity to meet with my co-defendants and their lawyers to prepare for court appearances or to discuss written submissions to the court. We are facing serious criminal charges; we are being tried together; it is essential that we develop a unified and coherent strategy. I’d be curious to know whether the court has any plans in the immediate future to remedy either of these obstacles, and if not, how I am to be expected to adequately defend myself. Incidentally, I also have yet to receive any written responses to the motions we filed prior to these present proceedings. These are evidently being sent to my home in New Haven, and of course the jail won’t allow Luz to forward them to me. With those complaints lodged, I will now briefly address the matters at hand.

The government’s behavior toward me—and to this point, the courts countenance of that behavior—has put me between a rock and a hard place. The rock is my personal faith in Jesus Christ, lived conscientiously throughout my entire adult life as a member and lay leader of the Roman Catholic Church. The hard place is the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, home to the most destructive, poisonous and indiscriminately murderous weapons ever known to human civilization. These are weapons which represent in absolute terms the biblical definition of idols, or as the psalmist so presciently named them, Gods of Metal. The presence of these weapons in that place, according to the tenets of my faint, convicts me personally of sin. The expressed purpose of their existence—namely, to defend my life and property against my “enemies”–is blasphemous, and it requires that I take personal responsibility for dismantling them. For a Catholic, the knowledge of personal sin leaves the believer with two choices: substantive acts of contrition and repentance, or a willful break in one’s relationship with God.

As a matter of fact, nothing I’ve just said is even in dispute here today. Both the government and magistrate Judge Cheesbro have stipulated that these beliefs of mine, of ours, are sincerely held, that they are in accord with the teachings of my Church, and that they were the motivating force behind all of our actions at Kings Bay on April 4-5, 2018. The Report and Recommendation (R&R) from Judge Cheesbro further acknowledges that our actions were both prophetic and sacramental, which to me is a singularly astounding and hopeful statement, coming from a federal court. Actually, if I’d stopped reading the R&R before getting to its conclusion, I might’ve even thought that this was the Catholic Peace Fellowship announcing us as the recipients of their annual award! Unfortunately, it is that troublesome conclusion, with its frequent vacations from fact and law, that will leave my co-defendants and I frightfully under-served by justice, should it be allowed to stand.

Since it is the elements of substantial burden and least-restrictive means that are the real sticking point here, I will close my remarks with an observation of two on those points from where I sit.

Presuming, as I do, that the government, the police and the courts of this nation have not yet fully capitulated to the fascist mood that has swept our land—a mood as we all know, that today is centrally sourced in the White House—it is hard to conceptualize—and I’ve tried—the elements of a more restrictive means, within the law, of preventing me from practicing my sincerely-held Catholic faith, than that which has been imposed on me here in Georgia. To wit:

  • Charging me with three felonies and a misdemeanor.
  • Imposing exorbitant bail and home confinement restrictions on defendants whom both the government and this court have acknowledged to be nonviolent people of faith and conscience who pose no risk of flight.
  • Preemptively punishing me for sixteen months, under maximum security conditions, in a jail that frankly—and this is particularly relevant to these proceedings—operates with a pronounced if unspoken anti-Catholic bias. While in federal custody here, I have been essentially forbidden to practice my faith a a Roman Catholic for almost a year and a half now—not only with regard to sacramental and prophetic action on behalf of peace and nuclear disarmament, but even with regard to the most basic requirement of Catholic practice—that being regular participation in the Catholic mass. Meanwhile on my cell-block, the evangelicals conduct a communal worship service every Sunday, right in my living space.

Despite being given numerous opportunities, the government has yet to produce any evidence that it ever considered any less-restrictive means of protecting its so-called “compelling interest,” while its own witnesses indicated that there were/are several such means available. The question this begs, then, is: did the government consider something more restrictive, and then talk themselves down? To this?? What exactly could that have been? Is there still some federal statute on the books that allows for a public flogging?

The government’s behavior towards me clearly indicates a politically-motivated prosecution of a faith-based action, and I, for one, can’t even hypothesize a situation that would better fit the description of what the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was intended to address.

If the government—or the court, for that matter—cannot fee itself enough from these political pressures to do what the law and the evidence clearly indicate to be the right thing—namely, to drop these charges—then at the very least, it can only serve the interest of justice to let this argument be put before a jury as part of our defense.




Judge Wood, good morning. It is good, and a bit intimidating, to finally get to meet you. We’ve heard from various people that you are, ‘the smartest person I’ve ever met,’ or ‘She has a photographic memory,’ and ‘She runs a tight ship.’ Otherwise, one very becoming item we heard about you is that you went before the Daughters of the American Revolution and explained to them that the First Amendment to the Constitution could rightly be used to justify the burning of an American Flag. You maintained that while it was a ‘despicable act,’ in certain instances it could be judged a matter of free expression. I myself would never think to burn the flag, but I can certainly understand the exasperation of those appalled by the endless wars and war crimes committed by – ‘the indispensible nation’ – our own country, which the great Georgian, the Rev. Martin Luther King referred to as ‘the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

But we are here to talk about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Many of our friends understood this to be a very conservative piece of legislation, purportedly created by Christian evangelicals of the so called ‘prosperity Gospel’ and they were troubled by our use of it. We however thought that it might instead be very good law, causing judges and prosecutors to discern a little more deeply regarding the lives of the defendants that come before them, maintaining that they were acting on sincerely held religious beliefs. To come to know them more intimately, to understand the unique context of their actions may transform what might otherwise appear to be a straightforward and unacceptable violation of the law, into a revelation of a deeper reality.

In my case, this was an attempt — as a direct extension of my sincerely held religious beliefs  — to initiate a 21st century version of the biblical prophecy – repeated almost verbatim in the books of Isaiah and Micah – that a time would come when humanity would recognize the wisdom of the Divine and seek to be instructed in it. They would go to ha Shem, and ha Shem would judge between many peoples, and impose terms on distant and powerful nations. And they would beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, nations would no longer raise the sword against one another, neither would they study war any more.

Study war no more! Never has the 2000 year old slogan been more urgent! Study war no more! This would mark the end of what the Supreme Commander of all Allied Forces of WWII and later President of the United States, Dwight David Eisenhower, called an evil spiritual force in his Farewell Address: That is the military industrial complex. Right now, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, we are closer to a nuclear war than ever before.

So the Isaian prophecy is not the only reason we acted at he Kings Bay Naval Base. Our sincerely held religious beliefs are also motivated by the teachings of the modern Catholic Church. Particularly its response to the two world wars during the first half of the 20th century. During the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church recognized the portent of those wars. The Church’s analysis is meticulously rational, calling for stronger international authorities to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. It is also boldly passionate calling for the ‘unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation’ of weapons of mass destruction and the supreme commendation for those who ‘fearlessly and openly resist’ their use.

I would share with you some quotes I cited in my written response to the R&R from Guadium et spes, one of the Vatican Councils promulgated documents.

In our generation, when men continue to be afflicted by hardships and anxieties arising from the ravishes of war, or the threat of it, the whole human family faces an hour of supreme crisis in its advance toward maturity.

  • Indeed, now that every kind of weapon produced by modern science is used in war, the fierce character of warfare threatens to lead the combatants to a savagery far surpassing that of the past.
  • Orders commanding such actions are criminal, and blind obedience cannot excuse those who yield to them. The most infamous among these are actions designed for the methodical extermination of an entire people, nation or ethnic minority. Such actions must be vehemently condemned as horrendous crimes. The courage of those who fearlessly and openly resist those who issue such commands merits supreme commendation.
  • The horror and perversity of war is immensely magnified by the addition of scientific weapons. Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities, of their extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and Man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.
  • Therefore, we say it again: the arms race is an utterly treacherous trap for humanity, one which ensnares the poor to an intolerable degree. It is much to be feared that if this race persists, it will eventually spawn all the lethal ruin whose path it is now making ready. Warned by the calamities which the human race has made possible, let us make use of this interlude granted us from above and for which we are thankful to become more conscious of our own responsibility and to find means for resolving our disputes in a manner more worthy of the human.
  • Divine Providence urgently demands of us that we free ourselves from the age old slavery of war. If we refuse to make this effort, we do not know where we will be led by the evil road we have set upon.

So, for whatever it’s worth, I am deeply grateful for these words. They speak to my heart; they solidify my conscience. But what do they mean before this court and the evil road we have set upon.

For years I remember hearing that the Catholic Church wanted global governance. But I’d never heard a word about this in any homily or Catholic journal.

And only recently have I come to understand the criticism. Curiously, it seems imbedded in the Swords into Plowshares prophecy: “Setting terms with powerful and distant Nations!” A-ha. What the church is calling for is a focus upon and enhancement of International Law. Not global governance so much as greater international cooperation and cohesion.

So, our somewhat esoteric, theatrical, symbolic, prophetic, sacramental action, is a heartfelt outcry against the so called indispensible nations abandonment of International Law. For the past 40 years the recalcitrance of the courts regarding international law – in apparent violation of Article 6 of the US Constitution –has selectively and very effectively eviserated large swaths of International  and treaty law.

As we freely admit, we entered the base with hammers, bolt cutters, containers of human blood, banners, Daniel Ellesberg’s book the Doomsday Machine. But most importantly we brought with us an indictment of the US President and the base commander. It was we who were upholding the law. Nuclear weapons are, by a simple derivation of International Law illegal. They are disproportionate, indiscriminate, toxic and uncontrollable in space and time. Every nuclear weapon is a prefabricated war crime.

We have been charged with conspiracy, and again we admit as much. To conspire is to ‘breathe together.’ Breathe, biblically, is Spirit. We share the Holy Spirit together.  But ours was by no means a criminal conspiracy. No, the criminal conspiracy goes on beyond the fence line at Kings Bay Naval Station, and exposing that is what cutting the fence line was for.

Interestingly, the prosecutions argument for their compelling interest is three fold. Protection for the people on the base; the damage of Naval property and unauthorized entry. Obviously, from the testimony of Officer Basset, at no point was anyone on the base threatened by the 7 actors in any way. This has been true for over 100 plowshares actions over the past four decades.

However, all of the lives of those on, and surrounding, the Kings Bay Naval Base are subject to an imminent and lethal threat. In the event of an increasingly likely nuclear exchange between the US and Russia that base will undoubtedly be targeted, and the decimation of the site will be vastly more grave than the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.This should be the true “compelling interest” of this court: to save God’s earth and its inhabitants from nuclear incineration.

As regards the damage of property, all of the property of the Naval Base are essentially elements of the criminal conspiracy. They are not, properly speaking, ‘property.’ According to St. Thomas Aquinas, “Property is proper to Humans.” But weapons of mass destruction are proper to nothing, save Aucshwitz and its ilk.

Finally, regarding the unauthorized entry, it was practical; essential to the exposure of the crime. What might rightly trouble us all, is how easy the entry an exploration was.

Perhaps most importantly, what is unspoken, the elephant in the room so to speak, is the prosecutions choice to not mention the real reason that it has sought to charge us with 3 felonies, never having thought to abide by their obligations under RFRA and thus exploring ‘the least restrictive means.’ The reason, I imagine, it that no one wants to offend the ‘principalities and powers,’ and the ruler of this world.



Good Morning Judge Wood – It is good to finally meet you; I had expected our first encounter would have been a year ago. Many of my dear friends are in court today as well as my wife, Mary, my son, Michael, my daughters, Bernadette, Annie and Mary Evelyn and my almost 1-year-old granddaughter, Theresa Grace. Can I have them stand so you can greet them?

Today is a very important day in the case of the Kings Bay Plowshares, and our hope is to share a lot of wisdom with you from the perspective of the seven of us and our defense team. I’m sure we are unique among the cases you have judged during your decade-plus career on the federal bench. We engaged in an action on April 4, 2018 in which our intention was not to get away with anything so to speak; we acted in an open and nonviolent way, and I recorded a lot of our actions on a portable camera so there would be no doubt as to our intentions that day.

We also stand at an important moment in history. Yesterday was the 74thanniversary of the United States atomic bombing of the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945 (with the atomic bombing of Nagasaki following three days later) killing tens of thousands of innocent people. These are the only two times nuclear weapons have been directly used on civilians, but the indirect use of these weapons happens every day. As my co-defendant Carmen Trotta noted in his previous testimony, if a person sticks a gun in the face of a bank teller, but doesn’t fire the gun, isn’t he still using that gun in an overt act of violence?

Often the argument of the U.S. Attorney in Plowshares cases is the defendants fail to demonstrate an imminent threat exists that must be met by high profile and dramatic actions such as ours. Last Friday, President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, leaving the United States and the world more vulnerable to the use of nuclear weapons. Indeed, it is the responsibility of people with sincerely held religious beliefs to respond to a government’s life threatening recklessness.

This court, confirmed in Magistrate Benjamin Cheesbro’s Report and Recommendation,determined that my actions – and the collective actions of all of us on April 4, 2018 – were taken as a direct result of our sincerely held religious beliefs, so we have met two very important elements of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Yet, the same court, in the same R&R, found that charging the seven of us with three felonies and a misdemeanor was the least restrictive means the government could use to sanction us.

Magistrate Cheesbro, despite testimony from Naval Station Kings Bay base commander, Capt. Brian Lepine that he had options other than arrest and full prosecution at his disposal to deter us, that these charges do in fact constitute least restrictive means. However, Lepine noted he could have given us a ban and bar letter, which would have trespassed the seven of us from the base for as long as he wished. While Capt Lepin testified that his prior use of the ban and bar letter had been a tried and true alternative to criminal prosecution, with a 100 percent success rate, still he did not consider such an option for the Kings Bay Plowshares.

In my testimony that day, I was asked if a ban and bar letter would have deterred me, and I responded: “on April 5th, if somebody had handed me a ban and bar letter, I would have hit I-95 as quickly as possible heading home …”

Perhaps the most important truth that underlies our April 4, 2018 action is that we came in Peace; our presence there was totally nonviolent. This is confirmed by the testimony last year by Scott Bassett, the Kings Bay public affairs officer, who said: “At no time was anybody threatened … there were no reported injuries … no military personnel or assets were in danger.” In addition, despite claims in Magistrate Cheesbro’s R&R that we engaged in dangerous activity, our actions at the missile shrine (aka: static missile display, which is a public gathering place) were observed for more than an hour by slowly passing Navy police cruisers, without intervention. This is also documented in video evidence provide by me from a head-mounted camera I wore at the base. Had we wanted to, the four of us at the shrine could have called a taxi and drove off.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act includes a condition the government not burden the faith practices of a person with sincerely held religious beliefs. My seven weeks in jail without the benefit of bond represented a major burden on my religious practice.

While the court determined that my actions were both “prophetic” and sacramental,” the court also took retaliatory measures that deprived me of participation in the sacraments of the Catholic Church – most importantly I was not permitted to attend Mass or to receive Holy Communion. My work as a Eucharistic Minister at WakeMed hospital in Raleigh was also brought to an abrupt stop, and there was certainly no quiet time in jail for contemplative prayer.

The government has also excessively burdened us all with severe pretrial constraints. Fr. Steve Kelly, 70, Elizabeth McAlister, 79 and Mark Colville have been incarcerated for 16 months in a miserable county jail (as a person intimately familiar with Southern jails,  I note I have yet to be held in a jail that honors the human dignity of those Jesus refers to as “the least of these.”) Four of us – myself included – have been tethered to the government by oppressive and often painful ankle monitors and cash bonds. I have now spent 14 months on both house arrest and a curfew that keeps me far from free.

The court’s criteria for burdening us (though we are still innocent of all charges), is because we represent a threat to community safety and because of our on-going criminal histories, yet speaking for myself, I have a felony conviction from 1984 (35 years ago), and the rest of my so-called “criminal history” consists of minor misdemeanor charges for standing in opposition to war, torture, the mistreatment of immigrants and for addressing other cases of grave injustices against the children of God.

All of my actions and those of my co-defendants have been measured and guided by the principles of nonviolence expressed in Sacred Scripture. I would argue our communal criminal history has been all about upholding the basic tenets of love and providing for the common good.

As I previously argued in our motion to dismiss the charges, for all intents and purposes the United States has ceased to be a democracy. All three branches of the federal government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) have opted to collectively and unrelentingly support nuclear weapons and endless war. With close to 100 percent of our government speaking with one voice on war and violence, dissent is no longer part of the national conversation. A nation that offers no dissent is not a democracy… Rather, it is the Kings Bay Plowshares, in our small, yet dramatic way, who are at present holding the U.S. Government to some modest level of accountability, maintaining a check on the imbalance of power that has been silencing the voices of reason, and which quells the Divine Message: “Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek and pray for those who persecute you.”

Most of us have heard the passage from James: “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)

Magistrate Cheesbro concluded the seven defendants are in fact religious actors with sincerely held beliefs. This indisputable conclusion includes an inseparable second component — the April 4 action itself. Magistrate Cheesbro’s conclusions are based on expert witness testimony, and the testimony of the seven actors. But the same court opts to ignore expert testimony when it is enfleshed (carried out) with the sacramental ritual (the action) chosen by the seven.

In the second chapter of the Book of James, this is clearly addressed when a needy person encounters one with means: “…If one of you tells him, ‘Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,’ but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that? So too, faith by itself, if it is not complemented by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.…’”

So, James concludes “Faith without works is dead,” but even more important is the fact that one’s belief is irrelevant if not combined with sacramental ritual (action.)

Magistrate Cheesbro wants to stop his analysis at my beliefs, but without sacramental ritual he only gets it half right. Yes, I have sincerely held religious beliefs, but if my beliefs include no practical substance, they mean nothing.

While Magistrate Cheesbro has accurately acknowledged the purity of my religious beliefs, he then plays God, and decides to judge my actions as spiritually invalid.

My actions are an extension of my beliefs. This connection between sincerely held religious beliefs and sacramental practice (action) are one and the same. When Magistrate Cheesbro attempts to separate belief from practice he is no longer looking at RFRA; he is ignoring the sacramental aspect of our actions, which cannot be torn away from belief.

In his report Magistrate Cheesboro clearly affirms our sincerely held religious beliefs were indeed sacramentalized by our nonviolent ritual at Naval Station Kings Bay. Yet, he also concludes that the government has used the least restrictive means to prevent us from engaging in our religious ritual.

Shouldn’t I be the one who decides such matters as to what constitutes my religious beliefs and actions as part of my personal relationship with God? The court has failed to comprehend the depths of and specificity of my sincerely held religious beliefs and practices.

It is also important to note the seven of us have practiced our religious beliefs nonviolently, which points to the overreach of the government charging defendants with three felonies for a nonviolent (quote) crime (unquote) of religious passion.

Yet, the sacramentality of location for us having to be on the base is a critical response to God’s call to put our faith into action. As Fr. Kelly noted in his testimony, he had to go to the actual location where the sinful behavior is being carried out to preach a Gospel of love, nonviolence and repentance.

The compelling interest I have to save the world from nuclear annihilation, which is not valued or affirmed in Magistrate Cheesbro’s report, is the most important component as to why we are here today at this moment in time. We brought a prophetic message to Naval Station Kings Bay, where sins are taking place. There are good people at Kings Bay, made in the image and likeness of a loving God, but they engage in bad practices that could result in the end of the human experiment. Trident is the opposite of God.

In conclusion, in this case, the government has never done that which it is required to do by law – to apply the standards of RFRA and conclude the seven of us, acting out of our sincerely held religious beliefs, are entitled to the least restrictive means so our prophetic and sacramental actions may be carried out without the government resorting to its most restrictive means of interference coupled with severe punitive reaction.

The Government, by Capt. Lepine’s own admission in the R&R, has noted it never considered the least restrictive means in our case, and if our charges are dismissed today, I will head to my family’s aged Toyoto Prius with my wife and children, and get out of town as fast as we can in case Judge Wood changes her mind.



Our Catholic faith and formation of conscience calls us to what some may describe as prophetic action that requires service to others. Faith is seen in action, not merely through words alone. Each time people of faith give up their personal security for the love of good, mercy, and justice, evil becomes overcome by God’s good will.

We are guided by this religious commitment through Scripture (Is. 2-4) and papal declarations, (Nuclear Disarmament: Time For Abolition, Dec. 2014) to pray and witness at the site of sin and illegal intention as our military prepares to use nuclear bombs against innocent people in the world.

We poured blood at the administration building of the command and control center of our Trident nuclear arsenal. Seeking forgiveness and exposing plans to commit mass murder cannot occur without the shedding of blood.

Our sacramental act makes tangible and evident, with our blood and symbolic hammering, what is not confessed in the maintenance of this U.S. naval base.

Our desire for nuclear abolition is being criminalized because of our religious requirement for a presence on the base to point out and uphold the rule of law.

The government has chosen the most punitive threat, 20 years in prison, for our religious exercise of a symbolic act of disarmament. The government’s compelling interest of keeping safe the personnel, property, and ourselves while on the base, was never at risk as shown with the hours we were on the base, and the many security vehicles that passed by us while we waited at the Missile Shrine.

The government has recognized our verbalized faith in action, knowing our motivations for many months in this case.

The government is attempting to dictate what is or is not a religious exercise regarding our nonviolent, symbolic direct action. Common sense and the least restrictive means have not been applied in the handling of our case for the past 16 months.

Criminal prosecution and imprisonment would be a substantial burden on the practice of our religious belief in our responsibility to protect human life, in being able to attend Mass on a daily basis, and to continue the daily works of mercy caring for the poor in our houses of hospitality.

We are committed to complying with human laws that are in line with God’s law; thou shalt not kill.



Hello Judge Wood, good to finally meet you. I have heard much about you, your intellect and your love of the law.
I am grateful for all public servants who offer their labor in the pursuit of Justice. Justice, for me, to quote Dr. Cornell West, is “what love looks like in public”. A growing refrain of mine is “Justice is about well being”, well being for all people and all creation, no exceptions.

Speaking for myself, it can be a little scary and intimidating to speak in court as a non-professional, and it can be tempting to want things to go “well” and without “mistakes”, but I have been encouraged to seek God’s will and leave the coat of anxiety behind. I want to be invitational in the practice of testifying, and in this case, arguing ones case, as a good practice, not just for Professionals or for those with eloquent or gifted tongues, but for all of us who might feel moved by the spirit of Truth, Love and Justice.

RFRA has been a step forward in protecting Religious Freedom in this country, in particular, in protecting the PRACTICE of people’s firmly held religious beliefs. As I understand it, because RFRA is now the law of the land, the government must apply strict scrutiny before denying people the practice of their firmly held religious beliefs. In our case, as soon as the government realized that the 7 of us Kings Bay Plowshares were religiously motivated and that our actions at Kings Bay were a practice of our religion, it was/ is obligated to identify it’s compelling and legitimate interests. Once it did that, it was/is required to determine whether there is any room for exceptions that would allow for our religious exercise. If they decide, NO exceptions. then the government must use the LEAST RESTRICTIVE MEANS NECESSARY in protecting and furthering it’s compelling interests.

We stand before you today Judge Wood, as 7 Catholics, religious practitioners of non-violent Symbolic Disarmament, asking you to dismiss the 3 felonies and 1 misdemeanor that we have been charged with by the government, charges that substantially burden the PRACTICE of our sincerely held religious beliefs. The Sacramental practice that we undertook at Kings Bay on April 4/5th , of non-violently symbolically disarming the Trident Weapons System, we have demonstrated and the evidence shows, that we could NOT undertake our practice in any other place or in any other way. (We needed physical proximity to the Trident, the scene of the sin, the scene of the crime) and ( asking permission would have been futile) Furthermore, the evidence shows that the government’s criminalization of our RELIGIOUS practice, not only substantially burdens our religious practice now, but it deters any future practice of our religious beliefs. RFRA, the law of the land, says it is illegal for the government to Deter the practice of my religion.

At this point, I would like to take a moment to look at the word religion. I learned that it has its roots in the word re-ligament.

I translate that as re align, or to be in right relationship. Before I finish my time, I would like to share a few paragraphs from my affidavit and my testimony from the evidentiary hearing. All of my testimony was about religion, was about seeking right relationship. I will begin with a passage I quoted from Mark’s gospel chapter 12. It was the Sunday Mass reading on November 9, 1958, the day that I was born. In many ways it has been a rudder in my faith journey, one that has informed my religious beliefs, choices and practices.

“Hear O Israel the Lord our God is Lord Alone! You shall love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, and ……. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater that these” MK 12:29

Nuclear Weapons eviscerate and violate the possibilities of loving God and neighbor. We cannot build, posses, maintain and threaten the use of Nuclear Weapons AND love God, as if God were Lord alone. Loving God requires trusting God, and reverencing the sacredness of all God’s creation. Nuclear weapons have become and idol, replacing trust and love of God with the willingness to threaten and destroy all of God’s creation in the illusory pursuit of maintaining power and control.

This “greatest commandment” from Mark’s Gospel that links love of God with love of neighbor, gets more specific in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 23, when Jesus says” whatsoever you do to the least, you do to me”.

With that in mind, the statement that we brought with us to Kings Bay on April 4th/5th 2018 says “Nuclear Weapons kill every day by their mere existence. Their production requires mining, refining, testing and dumping of radioactive material, which poisons sacred Earth and Water, all on Indigenous land. We see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident system as stolen resources, which are desperately needed for human needs. We see nuclear weapons as a cocked gun, the biggest gun, used 24/7 to ENFORCE the many layers of state-sponsored violence and deadly force required to maintain white supremacy, global capitalism and global domination”.

I see our/my action, as inspired by Jesus and the Gospels, a loving response to this systemic harm of the “least’, that is being done in my name, an act seeking to heal and find right relationship with God and neighbor.

Thanks to the prophet Isaiah for the invitation…

To go up to the mountain of the Lord, to be taught in God’s ways…

To hammer swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.

To train for war no more, that we may walk in the light of the Lord.