It was not a one-time phenomenon, but a carefully orchestrated event with decades of involvement and planning. The June 11 call has become an essential part of a week dedicated to ridding the world of nuclear weapons, a week organized by dozens of united organizers, many of them under the Mobilization for Survival (MFS) banner founded in 1977 by longtime veteran activists, and the Freeze Campaign (morphed from 1960s SANE), and other movements dedicated to ending both nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and war.
The person most qualified to lead the religious task force, organizers of June 11, a specific branch of MFS, was the Reverend Paul Mayer. In early 1978, one by one, he began to write and call religious leaders across the country. Over decades of activism, he has established a relationship of trust with allies from other causes. No faith was left behind and all became part of this great team that continues in our hearts today.
Reverend Mayer was a true natural, born into this selfless service, having been a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. At the age of 6, he saw his synagogue burnt down. It would reinforce his dedication to co-founding Children of War early on in him, helping teenagers cope with surviving wars.
Following his death in 2013, Felton Davis of the NYC Catholic Worker recorded and released one of Reverend Paul Mayer’s cohesive anti-nuclear speeches, here March 28, 1981, the second anniversary of Three Mile Island during a protest. Listen to his voice:
To get a sense of the buildup by the Religious Task Force for the June 11 event, this is from their 1979 leaflet: “Despite the declaration of the recent UN Special Session on Disarmament  that its discussions would “give a powerful impetus to the use of disarmament”. the arms race continues and intensifies. The development of new strategic first-strike weapons makes nuclear war an imminent danger like never before… The six thousand limitation and disarmament talks between the United States and the USSR since World War II have not nor dismantled a single nuclear weapon…
This deadly radioactive legacy will be bequeathed to the children of future generations, a legacy imposed by force and without the option of reversibility….
Thus, by a new king of the demonic counter-creation, the very ecosystem – this earth with God called “good” and “very good” – would be transformed into a radioactive wasteland.”
The 1979 religion task force pamphlet then calls in the exact language of today’s new international law, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
“STOP TESTING, RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND PRODUCTION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS.
…. CEASE TRANSPORTATION OF NUCLEAR MATERIAL EXCEPT THOSE CLEARLY INTENDED TO PROTECT HEALTH.
This direct leaflet from the religious task force, one of many, three years before the great June 11 convocation, opens with: “In the name of the survival of the world, we say Stop! In the name of the Spirit of Life, we call on all people of good will to demand that our government initiate an immediate nuclear moratorium, as an example for other nations and as a first step towards human survival.
The religious task force then calls for “safe and clean energy sources” (nuclear energy is neither). And calls for “the economic conversion of jobs in the military and nuclear industry to those for the uplift and benefit of the humanities”.
But of course our empire did not turn out to be a head of state “of, by, for the People”. The nations of the earth have had to rise again and again to protect the whole, this time with the TPNW, which includes the protection of our own unwilling United States and the other gravely irresponsible nuclear states and allies who support the industry.
The TPNW is a great echo of the Convocation of June 11, 1982, bringing together the many decades of direct evidence from those who know best in the world the realities and consequences of the nuclear weapons industry on humanity. The new treaty has been humanity’s answer to this deepest summons, prayer and plea since the awakening of the first armed atomic explosion on August 6, 1945.
The signatories listed here are only a very partial list of the members of the religious task force assembled since 1978 by Reverend Mayers and others. They not only gathered to demonstrate the call to the cathedral on June 11, 1982, but collected and released many of the public statements leading up to it, such as their three years earlier, 1979 “Religious Call for a Nuclear Moratorium.”
Many below were at this job for decades before the June 1982 making, and continued until they left the world. In his last decade of life, Reverend Paul Mayer, who led this religious task force, was to the end dedicated to earth justice, climate and a sustainable planet. He co-founded the Climate Crisis Coalition in 2003. Just months before his death, he was arrested in 2012, again advocating for fair housing for the homeless. These souls knew the connection between militarism and the health of humanity and our biosphere:
- Dorothy Day, the Catholic Worker
- Most Reverend Paul Moore, Jr. Episcopal Bishop of New York
- Dr. Muhammad Abdul-Rauf, Director, Islamic Center, Washington, DC
- Dr. William Sloan Coffin, Jr. Riverside Church
- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, President, Pax Christi
- Dr. William Jones, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention
- Sr. Andrea Lee, President, National Coalition of American Religious
- Chief Beeman Logan, spiritual leader of Seneca
- Alice Papineau, mother of the Eel clan, Onondaga Nation
- Rabbi Ely Pilchik, Central Conference of American Rabbis
- Reverend Timothy Mitchell, President, National Conference of Black Churchmen
- Dr. Joseph Lowry, President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference
- Swami Satchitananda, Founder, Integral Yoga Institute.
- Reverend Hozen Seki, Buddhist Church of New York
- Monks of the Western Priory, Vermont
- Jim Wallis, Sojourners
- Reverend Raymond Rivera, Hispanic Council, Reformed Church in America
- Rev. Antonio Stevens-Arroyo, Vice President, PADRES
- Dr. Eugene Stockwell, Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches
- Reverend William Howard, President, National Council of Churches
- Dwight Spann-Wilson, manager. Real. General Conference of Friends.
- Barbara Zanotti, Women’s Ordination Conference
- Bishop Frederick Wertz, President, Global Ministries, United Methodist Church
- Prof. Daniel Berrigan, SJ
- Peggy Billings, Ass. General Secretary, Board of General Ministries, The United Methodist Church
- Robert Alpern, Director, United Universalist Association
- Rev. John Collins, Co-Director, Clergy and Laities Concerned
- Sr. Blaise Lupo, Co-Director, Clergy and Lay Concerned
- Sr. Theresa Kane, SM President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious
- Rev. Richard Deats, Exec. Sec., Fellowship of Reconciliation
- Rabbi Jerome Malino, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
- Rabbi David Saperstein, President, Interfaith Coalition on Energy
- Sr. Mary Luke Tobin, Thomas Merton Center for Creative Exchange (The Monk, T. Merton was one of our clearest voices for nuclear disarmament from the 1950s until his assassination in 1968)
- Dr. George Webber, President, NY Theological Seminary
- Reverend Paul Mayer, Religious Task Force, Survival Mobilization
The 1979 New York Times quotes the message of the religious task force in one of the interfaith meetings: “A call for a nuclear moratorium is a radical expression of our hope that there is still time for a profound spiritual conversion of our values. Current to Something New.”
Religious leaders then urged people to march on Washington DC the following Sunday to protest against nuclear power and weaponry.
The article continues with the Reverend Paul Mayer: “The greatest moral and ethical problem facing religious people is undoubtedly the nuclear crisis. It is symbolic of the whole spiritual crisis of our century. With the threat of nuclear energy and weapons, it has become clear that we are now in the realm of the demonic.
Bishop Paul Moore of St. John the Divine Cathedral intervened and went on to say that a campaign by faith groups must focus on “a peace movement so deep that it touches the source of the evil of the arms race”. He decried that “the use of billions and billions of dollars for defense spending rapes and kills the poor”.
In the years leading up to the June 1982 events, it was clear to the various organizers that there would be a series of events to suit different needs and styles, not just one. All would have planned to participate together in the June 12 gathering, but a religious convocation beforehand, on June 11. For those who believed decades of negotiations and talks were going nowhere as homicidal weapons only increased, a day of nonviolent civil disobedience, Blockading the Bombmakers, was called on June 14. Those involved in civil disobedience would be required to undergo non-violent training beforehand.
There were vigils and actions on the eve of the UN special session on June 7, and workshops and teaching sessions in the weeks before. The year-long march for peace would come to an end, arriving at the gates of the UN on June 7, for the opening of this second special session on disarmament. The inspiration for the march, Fuji Guru, will participate in the cathedral convocation on June 11 and address the crowds in Central Park on the 12th. These monks were attending and praying at the June 14 civil disobedience along with other religious leaders.
After the June 11 convocation at the cathedral, thousands gathered for Central Park. They planted a tree and held a sacred blessing of the tree and life on earth. The religious task force also held an all-night prayer vigil outside the United Nations. Each hour of the night had a different religious organization responsible. All were welcome at any time to participate in this vigil that ushered us into the famous historic June 12 rally to end nuclear weapons.
The Saint-Jean-le-Divin Cathedral in preparation also organized a series of ten consecutive weeks of keynote speakers around the question of disarmament, entitled “Disarmament or nuclear holocaust? » :
Some of the notable keynote speakers were:
- Reverend J Bryan Hehir of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Admiral Hyman Rickover, 9 May 1982
- Dr. Helen Caldicott May 16, 1982
- Kurt Vonnegut May 23, 1982
- Mrs. Coretta Scott King, June 6, 1982 (the day before the opening of the UN session on disarmament)