REPRESENTATIVES of 13 Catholic and Protestant religious groups in the United States have asked Congress to block the development of the MX missile system.
The administration's proposals for a "dense pack" system, where the missiles are deployed in closely placed, hardened silos in Wyoming, were last week dealt a blow when the House of Representatives blocked £600 million in production money.
In a letter recently sent to Congress the religious leaders called the MX a "dangerous, destabilising, first-strike nuclear weapon."
They said its £13 billion costs "robs the poor and needy," its "dense pack" basing plan is militarily questionable at best, and its installation "would make a mockery of" United States commitments for existing arms control agreements. Signatories to the letter opposing the MX included representatives of several major Protestant church bodies, the National Council of Churches, and three Catholic social action groups.
They directed the letter chiefly to the 55member House Appropriations Committee, which last week carried an amendment, sponsored by defence sub-committee chairman Joseph Addabbo, to delete MX appropriations from the 1983 defence budget.
"We strongly urge you to vote to delete the $989 million in the sub-committee's recommendation for procurement of MX missiles," the religious representatives said.
Citing the projected total cost of more than $26 billion for the production and deployment of the missiles, they said: "Such massive procurements of elaborate and exotic new weapons systems, especially at a time of staggering budget deficits, robs the poor and needy of the public resources available to them."
They called the proposed "dense pack" basing mode "the subject of controversy in the scientific and military community, and growing ridicule by the public."
Questioning the administration's assertions that MX plan would not violate arms controls agreements, the letter said it "would arguably violate SALT I, SALT II and, if it requires its own missile defence system, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty."
The signatories also rejected the administration's rationale for the MX. "We reject the notion that we are behind the Soviets in the arms race. We reject the idea that the way to achieve significant arms reductions is first to rearm. Indeed, we reject the assumption that weapons of mass destruction have any military utility whatsoever," they wrote.
Political analysts consider Congress sharply divided over the MX issue and have called it a major test of President Reagan's policy of massive rearmament as a basis for negotiations with the Soviet Union.
Key political figures in Wyoming have announced their support for the "dense pack" basing of the MX in their state, but Bishop Joseph Hart of Cheyenne has written a pastoral letter to Wyoming's Catholics urging them to "say 'no' to this system."
Noting arguments that the MX moves the United States from a defensive posture to a "first strike capability," Bishop Hart said that if this is true, the MX is "morally indefensible."