Leo Church in his Class A's before trial

Leo Church in his Class A's before trial

While in the Bell County jail, war-resister Travis Bishop met another inmate who also was mistreated by the U.S. Army, Leo Church.

Leo received 8 months jail, primarily because he put the safety and welfare of his children over his obligation to the Army. Leo tried to get help from his unit, but they refused and in the end threw the book at him.

Leo should not be in jail, so he and his family asked if I could take on his case for post-trial clemency and appeals. Leo also wants to speak out about his experiences, so that the public can know what Army families are forced to go through these days.

If you would like to know more Leo’s case and how to support him, please visit his website at FreeLeoChurch.wordpress.com


I wanted to update my regular readers on a change in my personal life.

I’m in the process of becoming a dual-member of the Oklahoma City Friends Meeting (the Quakers), while maintaining my membership and ministry work at Joy Mennonite Church.

It’s hard to begin in explaining this decision, but the short version is that both faith traditions speak to me and I feel a great deal of kinship and connection with both communities. I spent a lot of time praying and thinking about this decision, and spoke to several friends about the decision, and I am now at peace with my decision to embrace both faith traditions. (for those who don’t know, I became a Mennonite I think in 2003, and I’ve been attending the OKC friends meeting since the spring of this year)

What I love about the Mennonite tradition is the strong emphasis on the teachings of Jesus (including his teachings on non-violence), their radical belief in the separation of Church and State (the Anabaptist movement which the Mennos are a part of, were some of the first to argue for this seperation — more than 200 years before the US Constitution was drafted), and the traditional emphasis on simplicity and solidarity with the poor.

What I love about the Quaker tradition is the emphasis on mostly silent worship (that enables a deep connection with the divine), the tradition’s unique decision making processes (not just consensus, but seeking unity), and at least for the part of Quakerism I feel drawn to, a strong belief in Universalism (and that the Divine cannot be constrained by the language we use to explain it).

And what I really dig is that both faith traditions complement and deepen the experience of living out the other tradition. Or to say it another way, being a Quaker helps me to be a better Mennonite (and vice-versa).

Also it is not just about two broad traditions but rather two local communities. Neither community is perfect, but both communities have a center that is focused on love.

To tell the longer version of the story, I’ll need to go back a little bit and recount some of my faith journey to date.



I saw this on Facebook on the group Interfaith worker Justice which I thought was worth sharing here:

Wall Street and City of London bank chiefs will be targeted this week at the launch of a new transatlantic campaign to reinstate historic usury laws restricting the interest rates charged by loan sharks and credit card companies. Hundreds of campaigners will demand a meeting with Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Philip Hampton outside the firm’s Liverpool Street headquarters on Wednesday.

Organised in the UK by London Citizens – an alliance of church groups, unions and voluntary organisations – the campaign accuses banks of propelling hundreds of thousands of people into unsustainable debt by charging excessive interest rates. Initially, campaigners will target banks bailed out by the taxpayer. To read more, see the two articles below.




I’m changing up the theme as well as the content on JMBzine.com. Comments and critiques are welcomed.

Also, regular readers have the option of picking their own skin to view this website. Just click on the bar on the lower-left hand side of the page to access options.

Hope y’all like it.


Cross-posted at: www.girightslawyer.com

This letter was written a few minutes before Afghan war resister Travis Bishop was shackeled and taken away after his court-martial at Fort Hood.

To everyone who still cares:

I can not say that a year in prison doesn’t scare me: I am terrified. I just cried in the bathroom so no one could see.

But still, though I am terrified, it would be scarier still to know that my fellow soldiers who feel as we feel would never find out what we are trying to accomplish had I not gone to prison.

Everyone who hears or reads this should know that I love you all, and my life is forever changed because of you.

Victor and myself are starting something big . . . and it is now up to all of you to continue on.

With all of my heart,



Press release/Announcement

Travis Bishop faces up to one year in prison for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan
Local activists plan to show support at his trial and at the gates of Fort Hood

Contact: James Branum, 405-476-5620 or 1-866-933-2769
Cynthia Thomas, 254-768-8300

BACKGROUND: The trial of conscientious objector and combat veteran Sergeant Travis Bishop will be starting on Thursday, August 12, 2009 at Fort Hood, Texas.

SGT Bishop is facing charges for missing movement, AWOL (absence without leave), and disobeying orders, because of his decision to not deploy with his unit to Afghanistan.

Bishop had been struggling with questions of conscience since his first deployment to Iraq, but never seriously considered refusing to deploy until he saw another soldier in his unit, Victor Agosto, refuse to deploy. SGT Bishop then did research and found out that he was in fact a concscientious objector. Unfortunately, he did not know that it was possible to file for conscientious objector status in the military until only days before his scheduled deployment.

Due to the short time remaining before his deployment, SGT Bishop left his unit and remained away for about a week, which he used to draft his conscientious objector application. SGT Bishop’s CO claims are rooted firmly in his Christian faith and his growing belief in the non-violent teachings of Jesus Christ.

Since returning, SGT Bishop has begun the process of seeking CO status, however his unit decided to simultaneously prosecute him for his “crimes” of conscience. If convicted in this special court-martial, SGT Bishop could face up to one year in military prison, a Bad Conduct Discharge, loss of pay and reduction to the lowest rank.

Trial Information for Spectators: Supporters of SGT Bishop are encouraged to attend the public trial. It will be held on Fort Hood (contact us for directions to the courtroom). The first day will start at approximately 3 p.m. on Thursday, with the second day starting at 9:00 a.m. on Friday. Spectators are reminded to not bring any cameras, recording devises and signs into the courtroom, and to conduct themselves with dignity during the proceedings. Also be sure and arrive early as you will need to get a pass to enter base (except from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.).

Trial Information for Press: Press planning to attend the trial are required to contact the Ft. Hood Public Affairs Office.

Post-Trial Demonstration Plans: If SGT Bishop is found guilty, a solidarity vigil/demonstration will be held at the East Gate of Fort Hood starting at 7 p.m. on Friday. Participants are welcome to bring signs but are asked to leave all weapons and illegal drugs at home. We are committed to providing a non-violent witness on Travis’ behalf.


Donate to support other soldiers like Travis by giving to the Under the Hood GI Coffee house

Donate to the Travis Bishop legal defense fund at Courage to Resist


Reprinted from: GIRightsLawyer.com

Statement written by Victor Agosto

to be read at tonight’s protest at the East Gate of Fort Hood

Thank you for being here this evening.

I have learned that nothing is more frightening to power than a direct and principled challenge to its authority. The truth is on our side and those who have incarcerated me know it. This is something that no amount of pro-war propaganda can change.

My only regret is that I did not begin refusing orders sooner. My only apologies are to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that someday they can forgive me for my contributions to their distress.

Thank you for coming here to protest my incarceration. I am humbled by your demands for even greater concessions by the United States Army. I am completely content to spend a month in jail for the sake of my conscience. But it seems that reducing my sentence from a year in jail to thirty days in jail is just not enough for you people. This dedication to justice is something that draws me to people in the peace movement.

I look forward to continuing to work with you, the Texas peace community, to bring about the end of these horrendous occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. I thank you for making me feel that I can comfortably call Texas my home, something that seemed unimaginable three and a half years ago when I first arrived at Fort Hood. You have treated me with a compassion and kindness that I do not deserve. Your dedication to the cause inspires me to continue struggling for world peace.

– Victor Agosto


Reprinted from: GIRightsLawyer.com





  • CONTACTS: James M. Branum 405-476-5620 or 866-933-2769
  • Cynthia Thomas 254-768-8300


photo of Victor AgostoSPC Victor Agosto, a Soldier stationed with 57th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 69th Air Defense Artillery, Rear Detachment, is scheduled for court-martial on Aug.. 5 at Ft. Hood, TX. A victim of the highly unpopular stop/loss policy, SPC Agosto, whose contract was over at the end of June, was told that his next assignment would be deployment to Afghanistan. At the end of April, with support of local residents, Agosto went public with his intent to refuse the orders to Afghanistan, on the basis of the occupation being “immoral and unjust.”

Instead of going ‘underground’ and trying to escape punishment from the Army, Agosto chose to remain at Ft. Hood as a tangible symbol of GI resistance. Refusing all orders that directly support the war, he has found himself in an overwhelming struggle to maintain his honor and position. His court-martial will culminate with the sentencing portion of the trial, at which, it is believed that the Army will enforce the highest form of sentencing it can impose.

SPC Agosto’s attempt to raise awareness and support has not fallen on deaf ears, even in a military community; he has found supporters and friends who are willing to help. As the unit serves overseas, he continues to voice his dissent for an “unjust” war. There will be demonstrators present the day of his arraignment, located off-post due to military regulations concerning demonstrations on military posts.

SPC Agosto’s attorney, James Branum will be available for interviews and to read a public statement by Victor.

Wednesday, August 5

7:00 to 8:30 pm Demonstration for awareness and outreach to Soldiers at Ft. Hood, East gate

To read more about Victor Agosto go to