1998 “Getting on the Right Side of History”, sentencing statement by Fr. Frank Cordaro
I would like to begin by expressing regret. Last month B-52s dropped 96 cruise missiles on Iraq- which proves it’s the plane that keeps on killing and killing and killing. I regret that our Gods of Metal Plowshares witness did not lead to the disarmament of these weapons of mass destruction. I grieve at the thought that the very B-52 that we attempted to disarm last May 17 at Andrews Air Force Base might actually have been used in this bombing mission.
Judge Williams, I know you to be a fair man. How you handled our trial showed me how fair you really are, as fair as any federal judge I’ve come across. Except for the last five minutes when you found us guilty, I thought you did a great job.
I’ve also come to know you through the men I’ve met in the Charles County Jail, especially the African-American inmates. They say you’re a fair judge who is always looking for ways to give a guy a downward departure in his sentence if you can be shown a good cause. They also say you are a man of deep faith, an elder in your church.
We too are people of faith. All five of us Gods of Metal Plowshares participants acted on our deepest faith convictions and well-formed consciences when we took hammers and blood to that B-52 Bomber last May 17. All of us, you and us, share that same faith. We share the same book of faith.
I’d like to lift up at this time a passage from our shared scripture that I’ve been drawn to for this occasion. It comes from the fifth chapter of Acts. The book of Acts is a great book to read if you want to see how Christians are to deal with laws, courts trials and judges. In the fifth chapter, the twelve apostles are before the Sanhedrin, the governing body of Judea. The apostles have broken a direct court order of the Sanhedrin not to preach or speak about Jesus in the temple. When the Sanhedrin repeated their court order,Peter speaking for the rest of the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (I’m retaining the gender exclusive term because the Sanhedrin was an all-male body.)
Upon hearing Peter’s reply the men of the Sanhedrin were so enraged that they were about to condemn the apostles to death when a wise and holy member of their body rose to speak. Rabbi Gamaliel, a teacher of Paul asked that the apostles be taken out of the chambers. When the courtroom was cleared, Gamaliel appealed to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you are about to do with these men.” He reminded them about what happened when a man named Theudas and a Galilean named Judas led separate revolts and each ended in failure, their leaders destroyed. Gamaliel finished by saying in verses 38 and 39, “So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these mend and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourself fighting against God.” The Sanhedrin was persuaded by Gamaliel. They had the apostles flogged, ordered them not to preach abut Jesus again and let them go free.
Your honor, what we did at Andrews Air Force Base last May 17 was the work of God. I know, as sure as I’m standing here before you, someday in some court these weapons of mass destruction will be outlawed and the human family will come to see them as evil and ungodly.
Long before your court convicted us last September, my fellow Gods of Metal co-defendants and I were convicted by God to be active nonviolent peacemakers. No matter what you do to us today, we will continue our lives of active nonviolent resistance to war and weapons of mass destruction. We willingly (and at times gladly) suffer the consequences for the sake of God’s kingdom.
Our attorney tells us that you could set us free today if you choose. So I’m asking you to side the Rabbi Gamaleil, set us free today, get on the right side of history and don’t set yourself against the things of God.
Finally, I wish to repeat what I said in the pre-sentence investigation report: I will not cooperate with any form of probation nor will I pay any fines or restitution. Thank you your honor for attentively listening to my statement.