This article is found in Herald Vol. 161-5:29 (May 2014)
I do civil disobedience to protest the production of more nuclear weapons by the USA. Supported by PeaceWorks – Kansas City and encouraged by the Mission Initiative to Pursue Peace on Earth, I took action July 13 with 23 others. We trespassed on the Kansas City property of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the location of a new nuclear-weapon plant.
In the past, we have gone to jail, paid fines, been sentenced to community service, and been put on probation. Does it do any good? Why do we continue our mission improbable?
Because we would be complicit if we remained silent.
Peace activism is controversial. At times we wonder why we even try to take on the daunting task of abolishing nuclear weapons. I’m sure we do not bother the military-industrial complex in the least. However, we think of our action not only as civil disobedience, but Divine obedience.
“Above all else, strive to be faithful to Christ’s vision of the peaceable Kingdom of God on earth. Courageously challenge cultural, political, and religious trends that are contrary to the reconciling and restoring purposes of God. Pursue peace.”
– Doctrine and Covenants 163: 3B
When we face complacency and derision and begin to feel we have lost the cause, we remember that we do it for the children. My grandchildren understand why I go to jail. They get it, even if the military-industrial complex does not. And so after nonviolence training, we repeatedly cross the line.
This past year we received affirmation and encouragement from a surprising source. In December, Municipal Judge Ardie Bland affirmed we are “doing the right thing.” He ruled all defendants were guilty as charged. However…
Judge Bland’s sentence surprised those present, because the judge has given harsh sentences in the past for similar actions. This time Judge Bland said he understood the defendants’ argument. He appreciated the comparison by Father Carl Kabat, one of the defendants, to the civil-rights movement. Judge Bland said Rosa Parks, a historically famous civil-rights activist, was willing to suffer consequences, just as peace activists today must.
“The world was changed because of what they did. Now I can sit up here before you as a black man doing justice,” Judge Bland said. “I think you are educating, because every time [each trial] I learn something.”
The sentence: each defendant will write a full-page essay for each of six questions posed by Judge Bland about why breaking the law was necessary (see the essay questions and highlights of defendants’ answers here). These essays will be on record in the city’s judicial archives. Because of this sentence, we received a good amount of publicity, which drew attention to our cause.
There is work left to do.