3 March 2005
Nun won't pay, may do more time
By Alicia Caldwell
Denver Post Staff Writer


The protest isn't over for Jackie Marie Hudson.

She is one of three Roman Catholic nuns who went to prison for civil disobedience at a Weld County Minuteman missile site. Sentenced to 30 months in prison, she will be released Friday.

And although a court has ordered her to pay $3,080 in restitution, she has said she will refuse, according to friends and fellow activists.

It's an act of defiance that could send the 70-year-old nun back to federal prison.

"She acted on reasons of conscience," said Glen Milner, an activist from Washington state who is close to Hudson. "To ask her to pay this money to the U.S. Air Force, some of which they'll probably use in some way to support the weapons she protested, that's cruel and unusual punishment."

The nuns became the focus of international attention in 2002 when they cut two gate chains, walked onto a U.S. missile site northeast of Greeley and drew crosses with their blood on the 110-ton silo lid. They were protesting the country's nuclear buildup.

The nuns, who belong to the Dominican order, were convicted on charges of destroying federal property and obstructing national defense. Fellow protesters Carol Gilbert and Ardeth Platte got federal prison terms of 33 and 41 months respectively. Appeals of convictions for all three nuns are pending in the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Denver.

Walter Gerash, a Denver civil rights lawyer who has represented Hudson, said that although it's possible U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn will send Hudson back to prison, he hopes it won't come to that.

The alternative restitution being proposed by Hudson and her supporters should satisfy the judge, Gerash said. They are donating time and money to causes they consider worthy and keeping track of the donations, which thus far total $112,000.

"I think he will (accept the alternative)," Gerash said. "She has no money. She's a nun. She's not obligated to raise money to pay."

Dick Weatherbee, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said his office is charged with collecting the restitution. He said he would have to research the exact wording in the judge's order before determining how and when his office might take action.

But he said that at some point, if restitution were not paid, the matter would be taken before a judge.

"Obviously, enforcement of orders of the court is something we take very seriously," Weatherbee said. "There should be no reason for these folks not to be held accountable."

In letters posted on a website - www.jonahhouse.org - devoted to nonviolence and religious activism, Hudson explained why she and the other nuns would refuse to pay restitution.

"We have refused to pay money to this morally bereft government which presently spends over ONE BILLION dollars a day to slaughter or in planning the slaughter of millions of innocent persons," she wrote. "I am complicit enough by claiming citizenship in this nation."

Instead, Hudson, who is being held in a federal prison in Victorville, Calif., asked supporters to account for the donations of time and money they have made to various organizations.

Sue Ablao, a close friend from Washington state who has kept in constant contact with Hudson, said some of the donations include volunteer work at a homeless shelter and monetary donations to peace organizations. One family foundation, she said, gave $20,000 to an international peace foundation in honor of the nuns.

However, Ablao, who said she has known Hudson for decades, said she isn't holding out hope that the donations will satisfy the restitution requirement levied against the three women.

The other nuns also are scheduled to be released from prison soon, Gilbert in May and Platte in December, Ablao said. They, too, have talked of not paying restitution, Ablao said.

"They refuse to support this death machine," she said.

Staff writer Alicia Caldwell can be reached at 303-820-1930 or acaldwell@denverpost.com.


( Other reports on 3 ploughshares nuns here )

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