Jesus of Nazareth was given a trial before Pontius Pilate and under Roman Law before being crucified. Crucifixion was nothing special at the time, it was the usual and ordinary punishment for many crimes. It was only that Jesus was an extraordinary advocate for peace, justice and love that made that crucifixion extraordinary.
It is odd to note that today, despite the spread of Jesus’s teachings around the world with some 2.42 billion declared followers, and the appearance of millions of Christian Churches, those who carry on Jesus’ teachings today, still face crucifixion, not in the courts of Pontius Pilate, but of Uncle Sam.
It also seems odd that in many supposed Christian Nations, no Department of Peace exists, though Departments of War (“Defense”) are universal. Those who take up the “military profession” are well paid, have health care, housing allowances, food subsidies, vacation pay and pensions. No such societal support is given those who work for peace.
For example, the Kings Bay Plowshares, who are on trial now in US District Court, face 25 years imprisonment for praying for peace and seeking to nonviolently bring an end to nuclear threat to humanity. In many ways, the Kings Bay Plowshares trial will be far less fair than that Jesus received from Pilate. Pilate was, according to the Scriptural account, actively interested in pursuing the truth. Pilate asked questions showing he was trying to understand what Jesus had supposedly done that was a crime and what Jesus intended by his actions: was Jesus a criminal or (in Pilate’s worldview) an innocent acting by mistake? Jesus exercised his right to remain silent when He could have raised a substantial defense based on truth and justice.
The Kings Bay Plowshares (“KBP”), I predict, will not try to exercise their right to remain silent—but silence will be imposed upon them. The KBP would like to explain truths that would justify their actions not merely to avoid being convicted criminals, but to show that the true crime is the nuclear threat they tried to stop. If they were being tried by Pilate, the KBP could show that they were motivated by their faith in god and Jesus; their desire to follow the “Prince of Peace,” and that they were petitioning for redress of grievances as allowed by the Constitution of the United States. The KBP would introduce evidence of Treaties to which the USA is a signatory party that make nuclear weapons criminal.
If they received a fair trial, the KBP would show the US Military’s own “Law of Land Warfare” supports the contention that nuclear weapons are criminal and that the USA, operating under such laws executed “Major War Criminals” at Nuremburg War Crimes Trials for “planning, preparing” for wars conducted contrary to the international law of war even in times of peace. Justice Jackson, of the US Supreme Court and Chief US Prosecutor at Nuremberg, made it clear the US position on the law of war was that planning and preparing for criminal wars, even in times of peace, was itself a crime. The KBP in a fair justice system could explain their religious beliefs that motivated them, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. That the KBP acted, not with criminal intent, but with religious motivation to advance the cause of peace. The foregoing is just a hint of the evidence the KBP could adduce that a just trier of fact would want to consider in judging whether or not the KBP were criminals.
The KBP would be far better off were they to be tried by Pontius Pilate. It is likely the Judge in their trial will issue an Order In Limine restricting most of the facts and evidence the KBP would seek to prove in their defense. In similar cases, Judges have ordered the Defendants not to mention certain words: “freedom of religion or speech;” Jesus or god; international law; the law of Warfare; the World Court and its decision that nuclear weapons violate the law of war; Nuremberg or Tokyo War Crimes trials; the prohibited words and facts is longer than this but it will be sufficient to make certain that the KBP will not be allowed to present the most compelling facts supporting their innocence.
This is not error by the Judges. Rather it is a carefully crafted strategy to avoid having a jury (the conscience of the community) be granted access to the vast body of law and facts indicting nuclear weapons as per se criminal, because if the jury heard the truth, they would be hard pressed to convict any person who opposed such criminal monstrosities. The US Government cannot allow such heresy to reach the jury: that its nuclear arsenal is the greatest crime on the planet. The US Government has learned that when jurors are informed as to the truth of history and law, they are likely to acquit defendants such as the KBP because no rational basis for legality of instruments of world death can survive review of the truth. Thus the use of Orders limiting evidence, or truth, in peaceful nuclear protest cases.
So, I expect the KBP will be railroaded. Carefully restricting the evidence allowed, the Government will be able to convict, simply by making sure the Defense witnesses are prohibited from “telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god.” Rather, the defense witnesses, being hobbled by the Judge’s Order in Limine, will be forced to tell the “untruth, part of the truth, and nothing but the allowed facts.” It is not clear whether the Defense can mention “god”—so is taking the oath a violation?
Some of the KBP, being so hobbled, may not be able in good conscience to testify in their own defense. Being persons of conscience, they may elect to “remain silent” rather than try to testify to “the truth” under the strict rules the Judge will impose—knowing those limits on their statements effectively prohibit them from telling the truth. In this respect, they will be like Jesus before Pilate, remaining silent rather than speaking truth in the face of injustice.
And so it goes. One may be forgiven for concluding such a trial is nothing more than an extension of the Crucifixion of Jesus. One may be excused for regarding the KBP “trial” as one more exercise of naked power railroading over justice. One may beg forgiveness for seeing in the KBP trial another crucifixion: of the innocent peacemakers on a cross of nuclear annihilation. Not even Pontius Pilate could wash his hands clean following such a travesty.