On November 13, 2004, Palm Beach Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Lake Worth, Florida, sponsored a meeting of Friends and other like-minded people working to counterbalance military recruitment efforts in area high schools. Our meeting supports this group, now known as the Truth Project, Inc., and its outreach to high school students and their parents.
Unknown to us, a Department of Defense (DOD) representative attended the November meeting to collect information for Pentagon records. We have since learned that the DOD classified this group as a "credible threat" to military recruitment and that other Friends meetings were similarly surveilled and declared credible threats.
We believe that we are being spied upon because our religious convictions include advocating for nonviolent solutions to conflict. The Religious Society of Friends has believed in and practiced nonviolence since our beginnings in the 17th century. The Friends Peace Testimony is based upon the sacredness of each individual and the unity of all; there is that of God in all people.
Our country’s strength is founded upon the right to freedom of speech, religion, and peaceable assembly. Government spying upon peace activists and invasion of a church are illegal, including during times of war. Friends participated in the founding of this nation. When we gather peacefully to act upon our beliefs according to our consciences, and in doing so disagree with our government’s actions, we are protected under the Constitution of the United States of America.
Freedom of religion is the primary reason that Friends and other groups emigrated to this country. In this spirit, we cannot and will not in right conscience surrender our religious beliefs. Practicing nonviolence requires great courage as we continue to speak our truth.
We hold our nation in the Light during these difficult times.
Joan M. Carney, clerk