Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation (article from NCR)

Editor’s Note: The following May 22, 2013 article by Seattle-based freelance writer Julie Gunter is reprinted from National Catholic Reporter Online: Jesuit anti-nuclear activist back in jail for probation violation.


TACOMA, WASH. — A noted Jesuit peace activist who has spent over a decade in jail for nonviolent protest actions, mostly over nuclear weapons issues, has been returned to prison for probation violations.

Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been on probation since June 2012 after serving a 15-month sentence for breaking into a nuclear weapons facility, was sent back to prison May 20 by a federal judge.Kelly, 64, was transported from the SeaTac Detention Center to the United States District Court, Western District of Washington at Tacoma, to receive the 60-day sentence. With time served, he is expected to be released May 29.

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy

Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly is seen in a 2007 file photo, taken outside outside Fort Huachuca in Arizona. (CNS photo/Felice Cohen-Joppa, courtesy

More than a dozen friends and supporters, including members of Tacoma’s St. Leo parish community and his Jesuit superior Fr. John Fuchs, attended the hearing. Some also attended a vigil outside the courthouse an hour before Kelly’s court appearance.

Kelly was arrested March 29, Good Friday, for blocking a road outside the Lockheed Martin missile plant in Sunnyvale, Calif. A trespassing charge was later dropped, but he was taken into custody for an outstanding federal warrant associated with probation violations.

Kelly was on probation for the 2009 Disarm Now Plowshares action, during which he and four other activists cut through multiple security fences and accessed highly sensitive areas of the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific in Bangor, Wash., where more than 2,300 nuclear weapons are believed to be stored.

After serving 15 months in prison for that action, Kelly was released June 21, and his first probation violation occurred within 72 hours when he failed to contact his probation officer. He violated his probation again a couple months later when he traveled to Atherton, Calif., for the funeral of Sacred Heart Sr. Ann Montgomery, a longtime activist and friend who had been part of the Disarm Now Plowshares action.

In court May 20, Kelly made an emotional appeal for the abolition of nuclear weapons and the healing of divisions between people. Other testimonies praised Kelly’s character and commitment to peace.

Fuchs addressed the judge on Kelly’s behalf stating, “Fr. Steve Kelly is one of my brother Jesuits … Our religious Constitutions commit us to working for peace and justice in our world, resisting all forms of violence and unjust war, following our consciences regardless of the consequences. Steve is being faithful to his vocation as a Jesuit.

“I know Fr. Steve very well, having directed him in a number of spiritual retreats, and I can assure you … that he is one of the most nonviolent, gentle and committed persons I know,” Fuchs said. “I only wish that I and the rest of us could be nearly as courageous as he has been in following his call.”

Over the past two decades, Kelly has been imprisoned for an estimated 12 years, according to St. Leo parishioner and friend Joe Power-Drutis. Kelly has been held often in solitary confinement because as a matter of conscience he refuses to work for the Bureau of Prisons while incarcerated.

Kelly discussed his unique witness in a 1998 interview with America magazine. “My hope is that the church will really become a peace church,” he said.

“I realize that what I’ve done is not what most people would call being an effective witness. I don’t expect the culture as a whole to change overnight. The people I would like to reach are people of faith and belief. As for what I’ll be doing in the future, as long as nuclear weapons are being made for use on human beings, I’ll try to resist their creation.”

[Julie Gunter is a Seattle-based freelance writer.]


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Activists express concern for imprisoned priest

[Thanks to National Catholic Reporter Staff Writer Joshua McElwee for this article published in NCR Online on January 23, 2012]

Activists and friends of an 83-year-old Catholic priest imprisoned for an act of civil resistance are expressing some relief after prison officials responded to concerns he was facing unfair treatment in prison. The priest has not eaten since Jan. 10 to protest his placement in solitary confinement.

Jesuit Fr. Bill Bichsel was serving a three-month prison term in the Federal Detention Center near Seattle, Wash., for a July 2010 action at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., where a new nuclear weapons manufacturing facility is being planned.

Bichsel was moved Jan. 10 to a prison transition facility in Tacoma, Wash. He was sent back to the federal detention center in Seattle the next day because authorities said he had received an unauthorized visit at the transition facility.

Fellow activists say Bichsel has begun a fast since his return to prison, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The activists also were concerned that Bichsel, who suffers from blood circulation problems, was not receiving an adequate number of blankets to keep warm.

In a posting at the blog of the “Disarm Now Plowshares” group [2] Jan. 19, activist Blake Kremer said Bichsel had told him “it is very cold for me all of the time.”

“I cannot sleep at all,” Kremer reported Bichsel as saying during a phone call. “24 hours a day without sleep, fighting off the chill. I have asked for a jacket or a pillow or a mattress; they do not comply.”

Activist Joe Power-Drutis reported this afternoon on the same blog that Bichsel has now received extra blankets and is “much warmer,” following a support vigil for the priest outside the prison Sunday, which saw more than 40 people attend.

Power-Drutis also said there “remains a couple of other health related issues” that the activists “hope to resolve those soon through direct negotiation.”

Supporters say Bichsel was visited by Buddhist monks with the Nipponzan Myohoji order when he was moved to the Tacoma facility Jan. 10. They say the authorities at the facility reprimanded Bichsel for the visit and had him rearrested the next morning.

According to Kremer, Bichsel started his fast partly “to unite us as one and strengthen resolve against nuclear weapons” and would be appreciative of any who would join him in the effort.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said that while he couldn’t comment on the case of a specific inmate, he did say that the “typical issue” for all inmates in the federal system is a blanket and sheet, and that there is a “full health services staff on duty at all of our facilities.”

“If we receive information either from the inmate or the inmate’s doctor on the street that there was some sort of pre-existing condition that was being treated, obviously we would pick up the ball from there,” said Chris Burke, a public information officer at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Now, sometimes, our doctors’ treatment may differ from what [the prisoner] was receiving on the street for a lot of different reasons. But those conditions will still be treated regardless.”

Before his imprisonment for the Y-12 action, Bichsel had served a three-month sentence in the spring of 2011 for a November 2009 act of civil resistance at the U.S. Navy nuclear weapons base in Bangor, Wash.

Supporters were concerned for Bichsel during that imprisonment, as he was transferred between at least six different facilities across the country.

Writing on the “Disarm Now Plowshares” blog, Power-Drutis said that a May visit to Bichsel in the Knox County, Tenn., Sheriff’s Detention Facility found the priest “a broken and very hurting soul.”

Twelve others participated with Bichsel in the 2010 action at the Y-12 complex, for which they faced sentencing in September.

Four others participated with the priest in the 2009 action, which saw the activists cut through the outer fences of the Washington state naval base before walking toward the center of the base holding a sign that read “Disarm Now Plowshares Trident: Illegal Immoral” and scattering sunflower seeds and hammering on a roadway and fences.

Among the other four who participated in that action was Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, who has been imprisoned since April at the Seattle facility, where he is serving a 15 month sentence. According to supporters, Kelly has been in solitary for most of his imprisonment.

Two of the other three people found guilty for the 2009 action have since been released. Susan Crane, a member of the Jonah House community in Baltimore, is still being held on a 15 month sentence at the Federal Correction Institution in Dublin, Calif.

[Joshua J. McElwee is an NCR staff writer. His email address is]

Copyright © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company

Candle light vigil: Of monks and the world

Plowshares News   January 18, 2012 [from Joe Power-Drutis]

We  have no idea how Bix’s meeting with his captors went at 10:30 yesterday morning; however, an energized group from Seattle to Tacoma and beyond gathered outside the SeaTac Detention Center in support of Bix and Steve.

We were a bit of a motley group with close ties to our beloved felons. We came to stand in the cold morning air and blowing snow to send forth messages of love and care to these two men from their community that spans the nation. Our gathering gave us the opportunity to connect with new friends and strengthen and broaden that community of peace makers.

If Susan Crane is right, and she usually is, then we weren’t there very long before Bix and Steve knew of our presence and felt our care for them.

For decades, Steve and Bix have spoken out about the dangers we face in putting our faith and resources into nuclear weapons and bloated military budgets.  Their appeals to humanity and common sense have gone largely ignored by the media, elected officials, church leadership, and many others. I believe that these two leaders have chosen the only path left that makes sense to them. By risking arrest, they expect and accept the same fate as the poor and marginalized who are incarcerated in prisons and jails across the country.

I leave you with a note I received recently from Fr. John Fuchs, Jesuit Superior in Tacoma:

“Both Bix and Steve are true monks now. The word “monk,” as you know, is from the Greek word “monos,” which means alone or solitary. And St. Ignatius intended for Jesuits to be monks, not in a monastery but in the world. And so Steve and Bix are!”

John Fuchs, S.J. “Spiritual Warden.”

Clueless in Seattle

Clueless in Seattle – that would be any of the people I spoke with
today on the phone or in person at SeaTac Detention; when asked why is
it that two days ago an 83 year old man was ordered to navigate his
own way via public transportation from their facility to one of their
houses in Tacoma, then in less than 24 hours be hauled back to Seattle
by Federal Marshals in chains and leg irons and then put in Solitary
Confinement! No one knows anything, just doing their jobs.

What dreadful thing has he done! Well now we all can rest better
tonight knowing that once again, our Federal Marshals and prison
guards have the dangerous Stephen Kelly and Bill Bichsel safely locked
up in 5’ x 10’ boxes.

Someone correct me if I am wrong here; but, has Steve and Bix, as
members of the California and Oregon Provinces of the Society of Jesus
in effect just formed a Jesuit Community at the Special Housing Unit
(SHU), aka, protective custody, solitary confinement, the hole, at the
Seattle/Tacoma Federal Corrections Center? Is this a first?

Susan Crane just happened to call and when I told her what just
occurred, she quipped – “There was once 2 Jesuits who lived in the
SHU, they had so many ideas of Resistance – they didn’t know what to
do” – beautiful!

I suspect, like Lynne Greenwald’s experience in August, this whole
thing was orchestrated by BOP for their own sadistic reasons. I for
one don’t have the need to ponder the Klingon mind.

A dear friend of ours, Joe Fortier, S.J., from Eastern Washington
summed up what is happening here much better than I ever could. Joe
writes.. “I work with the Indian People, and this sounds all too
familiar. (Yes, I passed the fill-in-the-blank test). Repeat
“offenders” are dirt to BOP establishment goons. You’re no longer a
person. Especially if you’re poor and/or a minority; Or in cohoots
with the poor. Bix , Susan and Steve will certainly be in our Keller/
Inchelium community’s’ prayers. Peace in the
Kingdom of Danger and Risk, Joe

I suspect, much like Steve, Bix is presently in full non compliance –
meaning he might not use the phone or take visitors and it may be some
time before he can write to us. Thing is – though they may not be able
to see each other, they are together, and I feel certain the Spirit
they are sharing is life giving to each of them.

Best support we can provide is to write and shower them with our
thoughts and affections.

Our brother, John Dear dropped me a note reminding us that Steve’s
birthday is on the 15th. It would be wonderful for anyone who can to
send a birthday card to Steve on this, I believe, his 63rd year. Makes
no difference if it gets there late, anytime in the next week would be
Steve and Bix were originally together at SeaTac during April of 2011.
After Bix was sent to Tennessee, shortly afterwords Steve chose the
route of non cooperation and has remained in the SHU ever since. He
was sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Stephen Kelly, S.J.
 # 00816-111 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090

Bix’s address is slightly different than it was previously.

William J. Bichsel, S.J
 # 86275-020 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090

Susan was sent to Dublin California and remains their today. She, an
aspiring poet, while maintaining all of her mental faculties, is not
confined to the SHU. Like Steve, Susan was also sentenced to 15 months
in prison, she can be written to at:

Susan Crane
# 87783-011
 FCI Dublin
5701 8th St. Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Also: If you are in the area – this weekend on the 14th and 16th,
Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action will be hosting activities
and actions in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Then on Sunday evening at 6:30 PM we will be celebrating a Festival of
Hope at St. Leo Church, in honor of Steve, Susan and Bix.

You can find lots of good information on these events at:

[Editor’s note: Click Here for full information about all the Ground Zero events.]

Bix getting ready to leave SeaTac!

[from Joe Power-Drutis]


I received a call yesterday from none other than Robert F. Rekofke, S.J., otherwise known by many as “Rock”; presenting residing with the Jesuit Community at Gonzaga University. Apparently he and other more wise and scholarly friends have concluded that my babble on January 2nd, in Plowshares News, left something to be desired in so far as clarity was concerned regarding Bix and his projected upcoming moves. I, in great humility, asked did or didn’t he teach Latin some years back to eager high school students? He agreed he did – and I inquired as to just how many of them were speaking in Latin today? Well – he failed to understand how his teaching Latin related to anything – and so might you! But I do! And sense the pen is indeed mightier than the sword, I shall continue; much to his and your probable dismay.

It is important to understand that when one decides to take a stroll on the grounds of one of our governments nuclear sub bases, or chooses to walk a few feet onto one of their monolithic nuclear bomb making facilities, the fed’s become very unhappy and want to own your body for a number of months or years; so, they contact their friends who run around with big shiny badges on their chest and others who wear long black robes, and work in buildings shrouded in secrecy with a statue of a woman with a blind fold on, to do their dirty work and show you who really is in charge! Would you call this a run on sentence?

Now you have to understand one other thing; Bix didn’t make my job of communicating with you any easier by deciding to take a stroll on the Strategic Weapons Facility, Pacific (SWFP AC) Nuclear Submarine Base here in the beautiful Northwest and Y-12 nuclear bomb making plant in Oak Ridge Tennessee all in one 12 month period. Actions like his just delight those people in black robes and after they are done smacking their tables with wooden hammers, who really knows all the bends and twists your life will take.

So, in an effort to be as clear as I possibly can be (which is already laced with numerous limitations) let’s press on.

This last September, Bix was sentenced to 3 months of lock up time for his part in the Y-12 resistance action of July 5, 2010. Simply put, this means for 3 months his physical self is owned by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). During this 3 months BOP can decide to move him around and rearrange how those months are to be spent; but, for this 90 day period they own you and can limit your actions to a 5’ x 10’ space, as in Steve Kelly’s case for non cooperation with evil, or let you out of the big house earlier with “stipulations”.

We have already experienced how consistently inconsistent BOP can be with their “stipulations”; when Lynne Greenwald was offered a change of status from the big house to community. Their games boggle the mind. Lynne wasn’t out but a few hours when BOP changed their plan and had those men with big badges pick her up and return her to lockup. Why? Because they can!!

Simply put, Bix has agreed to stipulations that result in a move from the Federal big house at SeaTac Detention to a smaller Federal house here in Tacoma called Progress House on Tuesday January 10th. Theoretically he is scheduled to remain at Progress House until the first few days in February and then return to live at Jeans House of Prayer until February 10th. His 3 month sentence began on November 11th and will end on February 10th. During all of this time, even at Jeans House of Prayer, he will remain under the authority of the Bureau of Prisons.

To say that I am skeptical of BOP intentions would be an understatement; however, Bix has agreed to the move, therefore it is important to support his wishes in whatever way we can. In one stipulation BOP has made, they are not permitting anyone to escort Bix from SeaTac to Progress House; he must journey alone and by bus. Go figure? Why? Because they can! We’re learning. Like you, you can imagine my delight at this particular “stipulation”.

When he is in touch with me tomorrow, I will write once again to tell you how his day has gone.

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