ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1995, 39 ministers and church workers appeared in the courtroom of D.C. Superior Court Judge Patricia Wynn. They had been arrested the previous week for praying in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, where they proclaimed the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Woe to the legislators of infamous laws, to those who issue tyrannical decrees, who refuse justice to the unfortu- nate and cheat the poor among my people of their rights" (10:1-2).
After guilty pleas. Judge Wynn handed down an
unusual sentence to the protesters. Each of them was
assigned the task of writing a letter to the judge
explaining their understanding of the rule of law in
our society, giving their justification for breaking the
law, and staling why they felt their action was differ-
ent than that of the man accused of assassinating
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The following
excerpts from those letters address the relationship
between Christian conscience, civil disobedience,
and the rule of law-and offer compelling testimony
to lives of integrity, conviction, and action.
"In imposing this sentence I assumed that each defendant had already given some thought
to his or her decision to break the law. With this sentence I
hoped to make each defendant reflect more deeply on the consequences
of the conduct and the difficulties of drawing lines when it is
the individual who decides under which circumstances 'the
end justifies the means.'
Such line drawing becomes even more complicated when the individual believes that the particular conduct in violation of the law is sanctioned by a higher power. The purpose of this sentence was to require each defendant to re-examine his or her conduct with these issues in mind."
Judge Patricia Wynn is the D.C. Superior Court judge who sentenced the Capitol Rotunda defendants.
- The Cry of the Poor by Joe Roos
- The Pesky Moral Imperative by Ellen Watkins
- A Tradition of Resistance by N. Gordon Cosby
- For the Children by Paul Weiss
- Faith and Crab Pots by Dee Dee Risher
- Concern for the Church by Tony Campolo
- Here I Am! by Heather Wengerd
- Idols and Fire Trucks by Richard K. Taylor
- Meditations on Breaking the Law by Rose Marie Berger
- A Conversation With My Daughter by Killian Noe
- A Passion for Solutions by Maia Twedt
- The Risk of Democracy by Will O'Brien
- The Morality of the System by Bob Holum
- "As if my heart were breaking" by Carol Wilkinson
- For the Salvation of My Soul by Jim Dickerson