Saturday, June 17, 2006


"First" of the Day

Prompted by a Fort Lewis Army officer's decision to refuse to fight in Iraq, the First United Methodist Church of Tacoma has declared itself a sanctuary for servicemen and servicewomen who also don't want to go to Iraq. —Mike Barber writing in "Troops refusing Iraq duty get a haven"

The news accounts leave the nature of the sanctuary offer somewhat vague. The church may prefer it that way—

"Our initiative was because of Lieutenant Watada's gesture and a clear sense that we have, as a reconciling congregation, deeply involved in justice issues throughout the city, that any war, particularly this one, is inconsistent with Christian teachings," the Rev. Monty Smith said Wednesday night.

Smith said the church stands "in solidarity" with others who hold similar social-justice convictions. The church essentially is providing a protective space and resources to those contemplating whether to resist deployment to Iraq, he said.

Smith said the church so far has received no applications for sanctuary from members of the armed forces. It has protocols and precautions to ensure that anyone who seeks sanctuary is doing so for legal and religious reasons.

Lieut. Watada's stance is not a matter of conscientious objection to war—

Last week, Watada, a company-grade military officer with the Stryker Brigade about to deploy to Iraq this month, said off-post and after working hours that he does not conscientiously object to war. He would serve in Afghanistan but not in Iraq, which he considers an illegal war.

The antiwar movement is showing a lot of strength in Washington State—

While troop supporters continue their vigils at a bridge near the post's main gate, Tacoma and Olympia seem to have become a new epicenter for an invigorated anti-war movement usually seen in Seattle.

Two weeks ago, demonstrations in Olympia against the movement of military vehicles from Fort Lewis to Iraq via the Port of Olympia resulted in civil disobedience and arrests.

I'm calling this a "first" because I can find no other instances of a church offering sanctuary to servicepeople who refuse to fight in Iraq. I would be delighted if I'm wrong, so let me know.


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