Nun the Wiser

By Bill Maher

Ladies and gentlemen, we got her. Sister Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun who spent 40 years teaching science as a missionary in Africa and has since dedicated her life to world peace, is finally behind bars – where she belongs! Sister Megan was just sentenced to three years in federal prison because in 2012 she and two other peace activists broke into a federal facility in Tennessee known as “the Fort Knox of uranium” to protest nuclear weapons and to expose how vulnerable the facility was to attack.

Sister Megan and her two accomplices cut through the fences of the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, which holds this country’s main supply of weapons-grade uranium, and then made their way to the most secure part, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility, where they spent more than two hours singing, picnicking and painting the message, “The fruit of justice is peace” on the wall before being confronted by security contractors.

Travis Loller for AP writes, “When security finally arrived, guards found the three activists singing and offering to break bread with them. The protesters reportedly also offered to share a Bible, candles and white roses with the guards. The Department of Energy's inspector general wrote a scathing report on the security failures that allowed the activists to reach the bunker, and the security contractor was later fired. Some government officials praised the activists for exposing the facility's weaknesses. But prosecutors declined to show leniency, instead pursuing serious felony charges.”

Loller adds that the judge in the case was “openly skeptical about whether the protesters caused any real harm and challenged prosecutors to prove it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Theodore said they had destroyed the ‘mystique’ of the ‘Fort Knox of uranium.’”

In other words, by peacefully and harmlessly proving our weapons-grade uranium stockpile was not secure, which many might regard as a service to this country, this whistle-blowing octogenarian nun undermined the illusion of security and, for that, we’ve got to lock her up.

Prosecutors and judges take intent and context into account all the time (see: hate crimes). Couldn’t we have let this nun go with a slap on the wrist? Or, at the very least, a hard rap on the knuckles with a ruler?