News Release Archive - Religion

Why Is Barr Prosecuting Catholic Peace Activists?


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.

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,
Mary Anne Grady Flores,