News Release Archive - Religion

Why Are There Monuments to Nazi Collaborators?

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Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the Soviet army liberating Auschwitz.

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin just wrote the piece “How many monuments honor fascists, Nazis and murderers of Jews? You’ll be shocked,” in the Forward, launching the The Nazi Monument Project.

He writes: “The most curious thing about last year’s protests that toppled statues of slavers and colonizers is that the monuments of Holocaust perpetrators didn’t even make headlines.”

Golinkin documents — with a map — “320 monuments and street names in 16 countries on three continents which represent men and organizations who’ve enabled — and often quite literally implemented — the Final Solution. …
“The Nazi collaborators honored with monuments on U.S. soil represent governments, death squads and paramilitaries that murdered a half million Jews, Poles and Bosnians. …

“Even more worrying than the sheer number is the overall trend. The vast majority of these statues were erected in the past 20 years. Wherever you see statues of Nazi collaborators, you’ll also find thousands of torch-carrying men, rallying, organizing, drawing inspiration for action by celebrating collaborators of the past.”

Golinkin provides a country-by-country breakdown. These include:

In the Ukraine, which is where a quarter of the Jews killed in the Holocaust came from: “In 2016, a major Kyiv boulevard was renamed after [Nazi collaborator Stepan] Bandera. The renaming is particularly obscene since the street leads to Babi Yar, the ravine where Nazis, aided by Ukrainian collaborators, exterminated 33,771 Jews in two days, in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.”

In Belgium, in 2018, a monument titled “Latvian Beehive for Freedom” was erected. The Latvian prisoners of war commemorated “were none other than the Latvian Legion, a unit in the Waffen-SS, which was the military wing of the Nazi party.”

Golinkin adds that “a disturbing number of Nazi collaborators documented in this database resettled in the West after the war.”

He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee.

Trump: Paying Off Morocco with Western Sahara to Recognize Israel

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Today, Trump tweeted that he “signed a proclamation recognizing Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara” and that Israel and Morocco “have agreed to full diplomatic relations.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes@usfca.edu@SZunes
Zunes is co-author of Western Sahara: War, Nationalism, and Conflict Irresolution. He said today: “The United States has become essentially the only country to formally recognize Morocco’s illegal annexation of Western Sahara, the former Spanish colony forcibly seized by Moroccan forces in 1975. Trump’s proclamation is directly counter to a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a landmark World Court ruling calling for self-determination. As with his earlier recognition of Israeli conquests, Trump is effectively renouncing long standing international legal principles in favor of the right of conquest.

“The decision was apparently in return for Morocco’s decision to formally recognize Israel, a country which is also an occupying power. Trump has similarly broken precedent by recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights. Today’s recognition of the annexation of an entire country, which has been recognized as an independent state by no less than 80 countries, is a particularly dangerous precedent.

“Trump cites Morocco’s ‘autonomy plan’ as ‘serious, credible, and realistic’ and ‘the ONLY basis for a just and lasting solution’ even though it falls way short of the international legal definition of autonomy and in effect would simply continue the occupation.”

Zunes’ piece “The East Timor Model Offers a Way out for Western Sahara and Morocco” was just published by Foreign Policy. See Zunes’ writings on Western Sahara including his piece “Morocco continues occupation of Western Sahara, in defiance of UN.”

Shortly after Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in 1990, he addressed the UN General Assembly on June 22 of that year, stating: “We also take this opportunity to extend warm greetings to all others who fight for their liberation and their human rights, including the peoples of Palestine and Western Sahara. We commend their struggles to you, convinced that we are all moved by the fact that freedom is indivisible, convinced that the denial of the rights of one diminishes the freedom of others.” Video clip.

 

Pacifists Face Prison for Taking on U.S.’s Nuclear Weapons

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Three Catholic Worker activists are scheduled to be sentenced separately beginning Thursday morning at 10:00 and going into Friday for trespassing on a major U.S. nuclear weapons facility in Georgia. Instructions on how to listen to the hearings are here.

Last month, one of the co-defendents, Patrick O’Neill from North Carolina, was sentenced to 14 months.

The defendants are known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 for following the biblical edict to turn swords into plowshares. They include Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement, Clare Grady of Ithaca, New York and Carmen Trotta of the New York Catholic Worker.

On April 4, 2018 — exactly 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — the activists entered the massive Trident missile base at Kings Bay, Georgia. They spray painted “Abolish Nukes Now” and “Choose Life” and hammered on a monument to nuclear weapons at the base.

The group notes: “With the nation’s attention being drawn to Georgia and the pending runoffs to determine the majority in the U.S. Senate, three of the Kings Bay Plowshares defendants have arranged with the federal court in Brunswick, Georgia to appear virtually for sentencing this week. The disarmament activists have received little national attention since their action against the Trident submarine base more than two years ago while the stakes are much higher, our future existence and the very survival of our world as we know it. …

“On Oct. 24 the historic Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was ratified by the 50th nation necessary for this international law to enter into force. This law making nuclear weapons illegal now takes effect on Jan. 22, 2021, a little more than 75 years after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” See IPA news release: “* Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Enters into Force * Religious Freedom?

Another of the seven activist, Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, was sentenced to 33 months, time he had already served having been held in county jail since the action. He is now being transported to the West Coast by the U.S. Marshals for an earlier probation violation.

For more information, contact:

Ellen Barfield, ellene4pj@yahoo.com
Bill Ofenloch, billcpf@aol.com
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08@gmail.com

Also see: KingsBayPlowshares7.org and @kingsbayplow7.

Did Israel Use False Charges of Anti-Semitism to Bring Down Corbyn?

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CommonDreams reports: “‘An Inspiration to Progressive Forces’: Allies Stand in Solidarity With Jeremy Corbyn Following Labour Party Suspension.” The Electronic Intifadah reports: “UK ‘Labour anti-Semitism’ probe finds only two ‘unlawful acts.’

MIKO PELED, mikopeled@gmail.com, @mikopeled
Peled is a human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is author of The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and Injustice: The Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.

He said today: “Jeremy Corbyn was arguably one of the most popular leaders in the West and the most promising to those who care for progressive causes. This presented a problem for Israel because it is afraid of strong leaders who express support for the Palestinian people. It was clear that Israel would stop at nothing to prevent Corbyn from entering 10 Downing Street and indeed with its strategy of redefining and weaponizing anti-Semitism, it was able to bring down the UK Labour Party and have Jeremy Corbyn suspended on unfounded charges of anti-Semitism.”

* Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Enters into Force * Religious Freedom?

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Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be voted in as a member of the Supreme Court today.

Al Jazeera reports: “Treaty banning nuclear weapons to enter into force,” which states: “Fifty countries have ratified an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, the United Nations has announced, allowing the ‘historic’ text to enter into force in 90 days.

“Honduras became the 50th country to ratify the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the UN said on Saturday, in a move hailed by anti-nuclear activists but strongly opposed by the United States” and the other nuclear powers.

“UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended the 50 states and saluted ‘the instrumental work’ of civil society in facilitating negotiations and pushing for ratification. …

“The UN chief said the treaty’s entry into force on January 22, 2021, crowns a worldwide movement ‘to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons’ and ‘is a tribute to the survivors of nuclear explosions and tests, many of whom advocated for this treaty.’ …

“The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize-winning coalition whose work helped spearhead the nuclear ban treaty, called the development a ‘historic milestone.'”

PATRICK O’NEILL, via Bill Ofenloch, billcpf@aol.com;
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08@gmail.com

O’Neill was just sentenced to 14 months in prison for peacefully protesting nuclear weapons. He and the other Kings Bay Plowshares 7 entered a massive Trident nuclear submarine base in Georgia in 2018 and were convicted of trespassing and other crimes. See background on their case and statements by supporters, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu at KingsBayPlowshares7.org and @kingsbayplow7.

    At his recent sentencing hearing, O’Neill said: “While this court disregards the international laws signed by our nation and upheld by our constitution (Article 6, section 2, the Supremacy Clause) which our courts are to uphold above all domestic laws, I, under obligation to these laws and God’s laws, have attempted to uphold these laws and abide by them in our actions at Kings Bay.

    “In fact, our government has violated many vital laws regarding nuclear weapons, the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty clearly, among many others. But there is also good news. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons any day now WILL Be International Law. As of this week, 47 nations have ratified the treaty. Only three more nations are needed for global ratification that will mean there is NO doubt that we will have this new International Law on the books in the very near future.

“That’s why you, Judge Wood, in perhaps the only time you expressed your personal opinion during the trial, said Trident is probably not unlawful. The United States’ refusal to recognize international law does not make international law irrelevant.” The court refused to hear expert testimony by Prof. Francis Boyle on the illegality of nuclear weapons and by Daniel Ellsberg regarding the necessity defense.

    O’Neill also noted at his sentencing hearing that a court magistrate conceded that their actions were “prophetic, sacramental” and sought “symbolic denuclearization” — but yet, the judge ensured that the “jury never heard any evidence about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” That is, an Act that is touted by Barrett, Attorney General William Barr, Vice President Mike Pence and others was rendered moot in the Plowshares case because of an alleged “compelling interest” of the government regarding its military assets, e.g. the base where nuclear weapons were neither confirmed nor denied by government witnesses on the stand.

Also, see: “Religious Left Catholics on Judge Barrett.”

Barrett and Injustice: Jesuit Priest Being Sentenced for Nuclear Weapons Protest

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The New York Times reports in “Ardeth Platte, Dominican Nun and Antinuclear Activist, Dies at 84” that “Sister Ardeth spent years behind bars for her beliefs and was the inspiration for a character on the Netflix hit ‘Orange Is the New Black.'”

On Thursday and Friday, sentencing will take place for Fr. Steven Kelly, a Jesuit priest, and his co-defendant Patrick O’Neill, who co-founded a Catholic Worker house in Garner, North Carolina. Kelly has been in jail for the last two and a half years. They are part of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, Catholic Worker activists who entered the largest U.S. nuclear weapons facility in Georgia on April 4, 2018, exactly 50 years after Martin Luther King’s assasination. See KingsBayPlowshares7.org for background and @kingsbayplow7 for up-to-date information, including how to listen to the sentencing.

Plowshares activists follow the biblical edict to “beat swords into plowshares.” (See O’Neill’s oral arguments on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an act championed by William Barr and Mike Pence — and mentioned by Ted Cruz during Barrett’s hearings — but prohibited by the court in this case.)

PAUL MAGNO, pmagno56@gmail.com
Magno is with Jonah House, an activist spiritual community in Baltimore, where many of the 100 Plowshares actions originated. It was founded by the late Philip Barrigan and Liz McAlister (see below) where Sister Ardeth lived for many years. He is currently in Brunswick, Georgia where the sentencing for Fr. Kelly and O’Neill will take place.

He said today: “It is a shame that Amy Coney Barrett didn’t pursue college or law school locally in her native New Orleans. If she had, she might have met and been mentored by a great lawyer, Bill Quigley, who is also a Catholic driven by his faith. He understands that social justice needs to be an intrinsic component of law in order to make justice a widely available resource for poor and marginalized constituencies in U.S society.

“Quigley has trained and mentored a host of advocacy-focused attorneys over the years from his place as professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, defended peace activists as part of the SOA Watch legal collective for over 30 years and the faith-based disarmament activists of the Plowshares movement. Notably he won an appeal for the three Transform Now Plowshares activists convicted in Tennessee after gaining entry to the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons complex in July of 2012. Their sabotage conviction was overturned and they were released from prison after serving two years apiece of much longer sentences imposed after their trial in Knoxville in the Spring of 2013. This week two other clients of his will face sentencing in Brunswick Georgia for their Kings Bay Plowshares incursion onto a Trident submarine base in April of 2018.”

Instead, said Magno, Barrett “has advanced professionally under the aegis of the Federalist Society and the influence of figures such as the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. With her opening remarks, ‘courts are not designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life,’ she embraces the notion of judicial indifference to social injustice and a judiciary that makes a virtue of that helplessness.

“A saying of medieval Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas is worth remembering. He said: ‘Law, when it ceases to be justice, ceases even to be law.'”

Liz Mcalister, who is also one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, and was represented by Quigley, said: “This isn’t the first time that Steve Kelly faces the court of law — not the court of justice. I don’t think he even keeps count of how many times he’s stood before courts, or how long he has spent in jails and prisons. He enters all those spaces with grace and peace, knowing that the work that he can do there is welcome and needed and a gift to all of us. I trust that he will put any additional time in prison to good use, and that it will be a time of deep prayer, oriented toward transforming our world into a more just and peaceful place. We are grateful for his witness and I am called to a deeper commitment to the work for peace and justice by my brother Steve Kelly.”

Questions on SCOTUS Nominee: What Version of Christianity?

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[The Washington Post reports: “Yes, Senate Republicans could still confirm [Amy Coney] Barrett before the election.” Also see analysis in The Intercept. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for this evening and the issue of the Supreme Court is likely to be discussed.]

MATTHEW FOX, via Dennis Edwards, 33dennis@sbcglobal.net, @RevDrMatthewFox

Fox is a theologian, an Episcopal priest and an activist. He has written 37 books including A Spirituality Named CompassionThe Reinvention of WorkThe Order of the Sacred Earth and A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey.

He recently wrote “A Public Letter to Supreme Court Nominee Amy Barrett” which was published by Tikkun magazine. Fox writes: “With the nomination of a new supreme court judge, some are being accused of ‘anti-catholicism’ for posing questions about your religious beliefs. I, however, think questions like the following are important and I am sure that you are open to discussing them with the American public whose job it is [for you] to serve.

1) “Since you are a practicing Catholic, have you studied Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment (‘Laudato Si‘)? What are your positions on environmental justice? On climate change? Are you as passionate about them as you are about opposing abortion? …

2) “Have you studied Pope Francis’ statements on the ‘idolatry of money‘ that dominates so much of our economic system? Where do you stand on that subject and on unbridled Wall Street power? And on tax breaks for the very rich vs. for the poor and middle class? (Revelations on President Trump’s non-taxes being very relevant to the question.)

3) “Where do you stand on the long-standing teaching of the right for unions to organize that are embedded in papal documents dating all the way back to Pope Leo XIII in the nineteenth century?

4) “As for abortion, surely you know the distinction in Catholic philosophy between what makes good law and what makes good morality. They are not always the same. Since women are going to have abortions (and not all American women are Catholic, by the way), isn’t it preferable to make abortion as safe as possible than to make abortion go underground? …

11) “… Speaking anecdotally, in my interactions with charismatics over the years, I have hardly ever met one who considered the struggle for justice for the poor and oppressed as part of their religious consciousness. In fact, it was precisely the charismatic groups in South America who were financed to oppose and replace base communities and liberation theologies, while buttressing right-wing political fanatics.

“My question is this: What does the canonization of Saint Oscar Romero mean to you and your community? How does his struggle on behalf of the poor resonate with your version of Christianity?”

An Opus Dei Court?

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Trump has stated that he will announce his nominee to the Supreme Court on Saturday.

BETTY CLERMONT, bettyclermont@gmail.com
Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in AmericaShe writes at The Open Tabernacle blog.

She said today: “Leonard Leo selects Trump’s judicial nominees. In addition to his role at the Federalist Society, Leo is a board member of Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center. Attorney General Bill Barr and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone have also been board members. See recent piece from The Washington Monthly: “What Drives Leonard Leo’s Campaign to Remake the Courts?” Barr just received an award from the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast; Leo is also president of the board of that group.

“Indeed, at the top, Opus Dei ‘is an efficient machine run to achieve world power,’ investigative reporter Penny Lernoux wrote in her book People of God: The Struggle for World Catholicism.

“As Lernoux’s remark indicates, there is a struggle inside Catholicism and Opus Dei and groups it founded like the innocent-sounding Catholic Information Center are not at all representative of Catholics, rather it uses the garb of faith for political power for a narrow elite. The people Leo chooses are selected for their proven adherence to right-wing ideology of power at any cost. Whomever Leo gets Trump to nominate and Mitch McConnell’s Senate is set to approve, it will lead to further decay of our national wellbeing.”

Martin A. Lee, a specialist on far-right movements has written: “Opus Dei has emerged internationally as one of the most powerful and politically committed of the Catholic lay groups. Detractors have likened the organization to a ‘saintly Mafia,’ for its members control a large number of banks and financial institutions. … In the latter stages of the Franco regime, ten out of 19 cabinet officers belonged to or were closely allied with Opus Dei.”

“Opus Dei uses the Catholic Church for its own ends which are money and power …. Its members form a transnational elite. They seek to colonize the summits of power. They work with stealth — ‘holy discretion’ — and practice ‘divine deception,’” Robert Hutchison stated in the introduction to his book, Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei.

See pieces by Clermont: “Opus Dei’s Influence on the U.S. Judiciary,” “Opus Dei’s William Barr, the Trump Whisperer” and “Opus Dei’s Influence is Felt in All of Washington’s Corridors of Power.”

Why Is Barr Prosecuting Catholic Peace Activists?

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On Wednesday at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, Attorney General William Barr denounced “a new orthodoxy that is actively hostile to religion,” arguing that “militant secularists” are trying to move religion out of the public square and out of conversations on the common good. Trump also spoke and Barr accepted an award from the group. The event was held online and was delayed from its originally scheduled date in March.

The Catholic News Agency reported: “‘Separation of church and state does not mean — and never did mean — separation of religion and civics,’ said Barr, as he insisted Catholics should be more involved in public life through advocating for religious freedom.”

As Attorney General, Barr has continued to prosecute seven Catholic activists who attempted to fulfill the Biblical calling to turn swords into plowshares. At their trial last year, they were prevented from mounting a series of defenses, including invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Six of the defendants have sentencing dates currently scheduled for Oct 15 and 16.

MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761@gmail.com@amistadobrero
One of the seven Catholic Plowshares activists, Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In late December, the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

Colville, with the other six activists — known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — entered a major nuclear weapons facility in Georgia on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They were protesting U.S. nuclear weapons policy and sought to “nonviolently and symbolically disarm the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay.” Colville used a hammer made from melted-down guns to smash parts of a shrine to nuclear weapons at the facility.

One of the seven, Father Steven Kelly, a Jesuit priest, is in jail, where he has been for 29 months. Others, like Elizabeth McAlister, the elderly widow of Philip Berrigan, spent over 17 months in jail prior to trial with little media attention. Colville spent over a year in jail. The other defendants are Clare Grady of Ithaca, New York, Martha Hennessy from Vermont (the granddaughter of Dorothy Day who founded the Catholic Worker movement), Carmen Trotta from New York and Patrick O’Neill of North Carolina — who gave oral arguments regarding religious freedom.

They were supported in their efforts by many in the clergy, including Rev. Desmond Tutu of South Africa.
Said Colville: “The Trident Submarine is an idolatrous blasphemy against God. It’s mere existence refutes all of the basic tenets of faith that I have embraced as a Christian. While our leaders frequently invoke Christianity as this nation’s heritage, they wantonly violate its most basic command, namely, that we are to place our ultimate security in God alone, not in a weapon or a nation. Trident is an omnipresent threat to all life on the planet, and it has never been more urgent that the human community, and particularly the people of the United States, confront exactly what that reality means: We stand poised to murder our own children, for no other reason than to preserve our nation’s dominance in the world. This is the definition of idolatry. This is the definition of insanity.”

Bill Ofenloch, billcpf@aol.com@kingsbayplow7
Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08@gmail.com