Breaking the Law for a Good Cause

A group of Cincinnatians opposed to the war in Iraq is considering civil disobedience the week of Sept. 21. They’re planning to conduct a sit-in at local congressional offices, hoping to convince U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot and U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt to support the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces.

Following are some of their thoughts as they consider a course of action.

— Gregory Flannery

Sister Mary Evelyn Jegen, S.N.D.:

“There is a fundamental moral law written in every conscience. This law obliges us to respect and protect human lives. I am convinced that the time is ripe for public acts of obedience to this moral law by acts of civil disobedience to the laws that support the war against the people of Iraq.

“Our government is responsible for acts of war that routinely kill more civilians than military personnel, not by accident, but by acts in which civilian deaths are foreseen. This is not war in the conventional meaning of the word. It is state terrorism and it evokes terrorism in response. To accede to this state terrorism is to share responsibility for it. Nonviolent civil disobedience has often played an essential part in major movements for social change. In our present situation, civil disobedience can help us come to grips with the fact that hi-tech war, whatever the intention, is a slaughter of civilians, largely women and children. It may stir us to look more earnestly for alternatives; it may be a necessary act of patriotism.

Barb Wolf:

“I think the people of the world need to know that American citizens feel strongly enough that the war is so wrong and tragic that they are willing to be arrested to stop it.

“Also, four years ago I was arrested because I felt that no one in power was listening to us. I was frustrated after writing letters, calling, marching, petitioning. This time I would like to do it with more forethought and planning. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to see this attack end without the need to commit civil disobedience -that would be wonderful, I just don’t believe it will. Neither do I believe that this CD will stop it, but perhaps it will push the politicians toward making a stand. “

John Rich:

“I like being naughty. There is something about rebelling against authority that has always excited me. Of course, so many forms of naughtiness can be reckless, even harmful. Civil disobedience is being naughty, being naughty for a greater good. To do it right, I will have to cross lines, break rules, and do the taboo. But in a sense, civil disobedience is a deeper, more authentic way of being obedient. Civil disobedience is obeying my conscience, obeying a higher law, obeying a greater cause. Civil disobedience obeys the things that matter most.

“Part of myself, my very being, is caught up in the violence in Iraq. Through my taxes, my vote, my participation in this political and economic system, a part of me is sent half way around the world to drop and fire on people; part of me is in those bombs and bullets. I cannot fully stop that part of me from going over there to destroy and kill. So what I need to do is have another part of me stand up to it. I need another part of me not to participate in this war. I need that part of me not to comply with evil. So am considering doing something very naughty–civil disobedience.”

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One Comment on “Breaking the Law for a Good Cause”


  1. I regret having to be rude to my Catholic friends and dear relatives, but, for almost two millennia, ever since Emperor Constantine, Augustine’s buddy, it has been primarily they who have bad-mouthed peaceful anarchists such as yours truly.
    How many more millennia before Catholics might come around to my way of thinking that government can do no good? None. (That would upset their vision of God as Prez, Jesus as VP, and the Holy Spirit as Secretary of State/Universe, eh?)

    That said; while government can do no right, the only effective response to it must be persuasion, not defiance.
    Yes, I love Thoreau too, but still…


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