Ann Coulter Says She Can "Understand" Domestic Terrorism
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 08, 2007 at 11:30:20 AM EST
Speaking at the recent Reclaiming America for Christ conference, (televangelist D. James Kennedy's annual political rally), Ann Coulter not only repeated her now infamous anti-gay slur to the Christian group, but she declared that she can "understand" the assassination of doctors who perform legal abortions.

In demagogic fashion, Coulter first presented the shocking view -- and then wink, wink -- said she didn't really mean it; but in doing so, still held fast to the argument that leaders of the underground Army of God have used for years to justify the murder of abortion providers -- which she calls "a procedure with a rifle."  

Conference organizers stated in their wrap-up report report:  
The approximately 1,300 attendees converged on Fort Lauderdale from as far as California and Arizona to learn what they could do to bring their faith to bear on the social fabric of America.
 And on March 3rd, they got to hear Ann Coulter, one of the headliners say:  
"Those few abortionists were shot, or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them. I'm not justifying it, but I do understand how it happened.... The number of deaths attributed to Roe v. Wade about 40 million aborted babies and seven abortion clinic workers; 40 million to seven is also a pretty good measure of how the political debate is going."

Coulter says that she isn't justifying violence -- but she is. She implies that seven deaths as against forty million means that the murders of doctors not only somehow rights the balance -- but are not nearly enough for anyone to make a fuss about.  It is a restatement of her comparing the abortion procedure to a "procedure with a rifle." Her meaning is clear, even as her practiced rhetoric leaves her room for denial.

Meanwhile, I have a different measure of "how the political debate is going" than Coulter.  

A few weeks ago, James Kopp, the convicted assassin of Dr. Barnett Slepian was convicted on further charges related to his crime. The Buffalo News reported:

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara did not allow Kopp to use a justification defense, that what he did was justified to prevent more abortions. Arcara had ruled against that defense, saying basically that abortion is legal and murder is not.

Indeed. Abortion is legal, and the murder of doctors is not. But Ann Coulter can "understand" domestic terrorists who do not agree.  

The notion that the murder of abortion providers is "justifiable homicide," first made national news in 1993 when Michael Griffin murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida.  (Although it has a history that precedes the killing.)

A statement claiming that Griffin's act was justifiable homicide was signed by several dozen people and promoted by Paul Hill and his publicist Gary McCullough, (who is currently a DC-based PR man for Christian right and other groups.)  The statement is a lay version of the "necessity defense" that Kopp unsucessfully sought to present in both of his trials. Paul Hill was later executed in Florida's electric chair for the murder of a doctor and his unarmed escort.  A "second" such statement was put forward by Hill's supporters and is posted on the web site of the Army of God.

The Second Defensive Action Statement was released by the Defenders of the Defenders of Life after Paul Hill shot the abortionist, John Bayard Britton, and his accomplices, Lt. Col. James Barrett, and Mrs. Barrett. It is modeled on the original Defensive Action Statement which was originally issued by Paul Hill We the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary, including the use of force, to defend innocent human life (born and unborn).

We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the
life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child.

We declare and affirm that if in fact Paul Hill did kill or wound abortionist John Britton, and accomplices James Barrett and Mrs. Barrett, his actions are morally justified if they were necessary for the purpose of defending innocent human life. Under these conditions, Paul Hill should be acquitted of all charges against him.

It was signed by a number of known members of the Army of God, including several convicted felons. Their crimes are celebrated by the Army of God as Heroes of the Faith, along with those of Jame Kopp and Paul Hill.

Of course, violence and threats of violence against those who exercise their right to receive and to provide abortions has been a serious problem for three decades. The National Abortion Federation has statistics, but the short of it is this:  

Since the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion in 1973, reproductive health clinics and health care providers across the United States and Canada have become the targets of violence by anti-abortion extremists. Physicians and clinic workers have been murdered; clinics have been bombed, burned down, invaded, and blockaded; and patients have been harassed and intimidated.

As a result, reproductive health care providers have had to undertake comprehensive security measures including employing security guards; installing security cameras, bullet-proof glass, and access control hardware; wearing bullet proof vests; and implementing security protocols designed to increase the safety of doctors and clinic staff.

 Early in the Bush administration, there were three antiabortion criminals on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List who were eventually caught and convicted of their crimes.  In addition to James Kopp, a serial felon with a long criminal history -- there was Eric Rudolph, who pipe bombed of two clinics, a gay bar and the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. His pipe-bombing of a clinic in Birmingham killed an off-duty policeman and maimed a nurse named Emily Lyons: read an interview with Lyons to see what else Ann Coulter can "understand":    
... a nail-packed bomb exploded outside the New Woman All Women Health Care Center in Birmingham, Ala., killing off-duty police officer Robert "Sande" Sanderson and maiming nurse Emily Lyons.

Lyons, the 42-year-old mother of two daughters, had her shins blasted away, her left eye destroyed and her right eye severely damaged. Her entire body was riddled with nails and shrapnel.

She has endured nine surgeries, lengthy rehabilitation to learn to walk again, and excruciating skin grafts and scrubbing of abscessed wounds. Her legs are still mutilated, her face and eyelids remain scarred, and shrapnel still works its way out of her body, requiring additional surgeries. Some will never be removed.

With her damaged hands, she will never again play the piano; with what is left of her vision, she can barely read. Her hearing has been damaged. And she still faces a probable year of continuing medical procedures.

Since Ann Coulter can "understand" why James Kopp and Eric Rudolph did what they did, she must also understand Clayton Waagner, the third antiabortion militant on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List in 2001:

Waagner threatened in a manifesto published on the Army of God web site to kill "as many" Americans as he could who happen to work for Planned Parenthood Federation of America--from doctors to janitors. He bragged that he had stalked clinics, assembled a cache of weapons and compiled dossiers on clinic staff in order "to kill as many of them as I can." He said he would be

"going after ... anyone who works at an abortion location or Planned Parenthood. (I don't care if their location actually performs abortions or not. ALL Planned Parenthood locations are targets.).

"It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you."

He also, in the weeks following 9/11 sent more than 500 anthrax threats to clinics and civil rights organizations. Each Ffed-exed envelope  contained a note from the Army of God along with white powder saying the recipient had just been exposed to anthrax. All this contributed to the climate of terror and panic at the time.  

"I am a terrorist," he declared.  

So after all of the controversy over Ann Coulter's calling John Edwards a "faggot" at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC); and after she repeated the remark she calls a 'joke" to the 1,300 participants of Reclaiming America for Christ; and said she can "understand" the assassination of doctors -- a "procedure with a rifle" -- we heard nothing from any of the leaders of the religious right.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State which first reported Coulter's remarks, has called on the Center for Reclaiming America to repudiate them.

In light of the firestorm over Coulter's CPAC appearance,  perhaps the Center will seek to distance itself from Coulter's apparent justification of violence. If they do, other relgious right leaders should join them -- since she said something very similar last fall at the Values Voters Summit cosponsored by Family Research Council Action, Focus on the Family Action, American Family Association Action, and Americans United to Preserve Marriage -- according to a report by Chip Berlet and Pam Chamberlain of Political Research Associates, a Somerville, MA think tank:  

When right wing pundit Ann Coulter referenced abortion, she implied that the killing of seven reproductive health providers was a restrained response to court rulings unfavorable to anti-abortion activists:

For two decades after Roe, no abortion clinic doctors were killed. But immediately after Planned Parenthood v. Casey, after working within the system did not work, produced no results... for the first time an abortion doctor was killed. A few more abortion clinic workers were killed in the next few years. I'm not justifying it, but I understand when you take democracy away from people, some of them will react violently. The total number of deaths attributable to Roe were seven abortion clinic workers and 40 million unborn babies

So Coulter blames a ruling of the Supreme Court that upheld an important precedent -- as causing violence?  In fact, there is a long history of planned acts of violence that predates the murder of Dr. Gunn, stretching back into the 1970s as the NAF history (above) makes clear -- and the philosophy of revolutionary violence had been headed in this direction for years. One brief example: Army of God leader Michael Bray (convicted in a series of clinic arsons and bombingd he carried out in 1984)was the first to formally and publicly address the legitimacy of antiabortion violence. He writes on the Army of God web site:  

The first time I spoke publicly on the matter of lethal force in defense of womb children was at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans in 1990.  It was at the annual  meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society where I delivered a paper entitled, "The Ethics of Operation Rescue."  

...My point was that the action of OR [Operation Rescue] activists was higher than simple protest tactics.   It was the true rescue of innocent people inasmuch as blockades served to directly postpone and even prevent the imminent deaths of womb children.

One member of the audience, following my application of defensive action principles to "anti-abortion activism," logically asked whether, therefore, I must not necessarily permit maiming or killing the assailants of the womb child.  To this question, I publicly gave my asseveration.  The normal principles of defensive action apply in the case of the womb children because they are true children, true human beings.  There were no further comments or questions.

In other words, Bray was publicly discussing, as he put it, "lethal force," two years before the Casey decision that Coulter claims she understands made people start commiting murder.  

In a press release, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director, of Americans United for Separation of Church and State sharply criticized Coulter's incendiary rhetoric and "making light of the murder of abortion doctors and personnel." He called on Gary Cass, head of the Center for Reclaiming America, to publicly repudiate Coulter's remarks.

"The fact that these comments were uttered during an event sponsored by a Christian organization and from a church sanctuary is particularly outrageous. I hope that Coulter's remarks do not represent the sentiment of your organization and assume you will have no reluctance in making that clear."

And after that, maybe Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Gary Bauer and Don Wildmon, who presented Coulter at the Values Voters Summit, will also explain how acts of domestic terrorism such as the assasination of doctors and clinic workers, and the bombing and arson of medical clincs, and making death threats, and bomb and anthrax threats -- are incompatible with their understanding of Christianity.

have advocated, justified, tolerated or ignored assasinations and violence in the name of Christianity for a generation.  

Ann Coulter's glib but obviously well-rehearsed statements are so of a piece with the thinking of the Values Voters Summit that they did not cause a ripple; and she reused the point and made it punchier for Reclaiming America for Christ, where it also apparently generated no outrage.

Let's be very clear.

Ann Coulter is giving voice to what a lot of the religious right think, or at least what their leaders would like the rank and file to think.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Mar 08, 2007 at 01:23:48 PM EST

is discussing this at StreetProphets and notes that Media Matters for America has a list of newspapers that carry Coulter's column. Apparently at least four papers have dropped her already, including the Shreveport Times.  

Pastordan suggests letting papers that carry Coulter know how you feel.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Mar 08, 2007 at 03:16:30 PM EST

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