When Faith and Law Are in Coincidence

by Michael Sprong

"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." (Isaiah 2:4 NIV)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called [children] of God." (Matthew 5:9)

"There is in neither customary nor conventional international law any specific authorization of the threat or use of nuclear weapons." (Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, Advisory Opinion of July 8, 1996; International Court of Justice)

Conscience and an obligation to prevent the crime of nuclear genocide and to defend the health and safety of residents in and around Ashland County, Wisconsin compel me to act on this 24th day of June in the year 2000. I perform this act of disarmament to enflesh Isaiah's prophecy of a disarmed world, to follow Christ's example of universal love, and to comply with universally recognized humanitarian law.

The U.S. Navy's Project ELF transmitter is an essential component of the first-strike Trident nuclear weapon system. Deep in the ocean, Trident submarines lurk, waiting for Project ELF to signal the start of Armageddon. The submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system - the most costly and deadly weapon system in history - carries missiles armed with warheads that collectively have the destructive equivalent of 85,245 Hiroshima bombs.

It is a simple act: using an ordinary bow saw to begin interrupting the sequence necessary for ELF/Trident to threaten all of creation with annihilation. That sequence includes the acquiescence of U.S. citizens. Today I act to end my part in the crime of threatening to use weapons of mass destruction against civilians and the earth.

It is a simple act, but its implications are awesome. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe that nonviolent direct action is a reasonable course when every other option of petitioning the government for redress of grievances has failed. Acting to disarm ELF/Trident is not only appropriate, but is the only reasonable alternative left to citizens who are convinced that weapons of mass destruction are illegal and immoral.

From the moment I became aware of nuclear weapons, I knew they were immoral and a threat to all humanity. I saw the pictures taken after the bombing of Hiroshima - images of hell on earth. As I grew in Christian faith to become a conscientious objector to war in all its forms, the study of what religious leaders have to say about nuclear weapons, war and violence became a primary endeavor. I read the U.S. Catholic Bishops' condemnation of nuclear weapons and deterrence, I read the document "In Defense of Creation" produced by the United Methodist Church, Minnesota Conference. I studied these and other published theological, spiritual, and educational materials on the heresy of war, particularly as it applies to nuclear weapons. From that study, I came to believe that war and the possession and planned use of nuclear weapons are in direct opposition to God's will for humanity and all of creation.
photo by Will Fantle

In recent years I have come to learn that my faith is in coincidence with international and domestic laws that prohibit the threat or use of weapons that kill indiscriminately. Even the Law of Armed Conflict, to which the U.S. armed forces are bound, is designed to "limit the effects of armed conflict." Additionally, I learned that according to the U.S. Constitution, treaties, compacts, and conventions signed by U.S. presidents and ratified by the U.S. Senate are the supreme law of the land (Article VI of the U.S. Constitution) and therefore are domestic law. I have come to believe that all those treaties, compacts, and conventions bind all U.S. citizens: including President Clinton, Trident submarine commanders, judges, and myself. Those agreements include, but are not limited to: Hague Convention IV of 1907, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and Annex Thereto; Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare of 1925; Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War of 1949.

Urgent health and safety concerns also compel me to act. Project ELF has not been proven safe for the people and environment in and around Ashland County. According to Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, the U.S. Navy studies on the safety of Project ELF are contradictory and inconclusive. After reading research on electromagnetic fields - like the one produced by Project ELF - and their effects on organisms, I have come to believe that Project ELF represents an imminent threat to people and the environment.

Even after the end of the Cold War, the world is plagued by the existence of nearly 30,000 nuclear bombs. Nuclear weapons are portable "death camps" waiting to be delivered to their victims. Throughout my life, I have heard the occasional questioning: "Why didn't more German citizens do something to stop the Holocaust?" My hope is that by acting now, in this time when we continue to careen toward disaster from nuclear proliferation, it will help turn the tide to real security by promoting nuclear disarmament. I hope that in the future the children will not ask, "How could so many people know about these most deadly weapons and do nothing to stop it." Regardless of the immediate outcome of this action, I'm trusting that I'll be on the right side of history.

Michael Sprong
June 24, 2000