Theocrat of the Week
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat May 12, 2007 at 11:04:51 PM EST
Our Theocrat of the Week, Joseph Scheilder, head of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) won on a technicality. But oh, what a technicality it was!

But that is not the reason he is our Theocrat of the Week.

Scheidler, a leader of some of the most violent anti-abortion protests in American history, is celebrating final victory in a civil suit that lasted 21 years, and went to the U.S. Supreme Court three separate times before it was dismissed on a technicality. Scheidler and his allies orchestrated violent clinic protests at the same time he was praising notorious criminals, visiting convicted clinic arsonists in prison, and personally pleading (unsuccessfully) for pardons from then-president Reagan. The better known Operation Rescue, was created by, and was a project of the Scheidler-led PLAN.

The federal civil suit designed to stop the blatant choreography of crime directed against American citizens and legitimate busineses was named NOW v. Scheidler. After a dramatic seven-week trial in 1998, a federal jury unanimously held Scheidler and his fellow defendants liable for 121 acts of extortion, force, and violence. In 2000, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago unanimously upheld the verdict. In the end, the Supreme Court in an 8-0 decision held that the activities of Scheider et al, did not meet the legal definition of "extortion" and therefore federal anti-rackteering laws  did not apply, and ordered the case dismissed.

The Supreme Court did not dispute the factual findings of the federal jury that criminal acts had been committed -- only that they did not constitute extortion. Free speech and the First Amendment rights of protest were not an issue.  Nevertheless, Scheidler, told the Associated Press:  

"It's really about free speech."

Operation Rescue's Troy Newman called Scheidler a "true American hero."

Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life denounced NOW and others who oppose what he characterized as Scheidler's "working peacefully" against abortion.  

I have been proud to be associated with Joe from my very first days as National Director of Priests for Life...  "Now, a new chapter begins," Fr. Pavone continued. "It is time for everyone who knows that abortion is murder to act like it. We've talked long enough. It's time to take to the streets

Back in 1985, when all this got started, and before 9/11 changed everything, the mood was different.  Here is a snippet of what I wrote about the origins of the case for Ms. magazine:

"Welcome Pro-Life Activists - Have a Blast," read the marquee outside a little motel in Appleton, Wisconsin, in 1985. Members of the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN) were in a festive mood following dozens of arsons and bombings of abortion clinics around the United States. Some wore firecrackers on their conference name badges. A letter from imprisoned clinic arsonist Curt Beseda was read. This small but seminal meeting in many ways epitomized the brazen yet banal nature of organized antiabortion extremism-a rah-rah atmosphere, like some perverse parody of a pep rally, in which threats of future violence were cloaked as free speech, and past criminal acts were celebrated as valid tools for intimidating fellow citizens.

Prior to resolution of the suit, lead attorney Fay Clayton testified before Congress about the suit:

Scheidler vowed to stop abortion by "any means necessary." He publicly praised convicted arsonists for their effectiveness and their zeal. Appropriately, Scheidler called PLAN the "pro-life mafia." In 1985, in the midst of a rash of clinic arsons and bombings, PLAN proclaimed "a year of pain and fear" for anyone seeking or providing an abortion. Scheidler and others claimed that their tactics were "non-violent," but Scheidler also claimed that arson is "non-violent" -- which gives you an idea of the word games he and his cohorts play.

PLAN's founders knew that a well-organized coalition like PLAN would be far more effective in closing down clinics than the dozens of constituent anti-abortion groups operating independently...

That is precisely what PLAN's leaders did. Having formed the enterprise, PLAN called its members to nationwide "conventions," where they adopted agendas of illegal conduct and sent PLAN's members to carry them out. (While the majority of the illegal acts were carried out by their foot soldiers, PLAN's leaders committed some of them personally as well.) At the conventions, they agreed to new tactics, like barricading clinics with Kryptonite locks, blockading clinic doors with junker cars, and dismantling medical equipment. And a PLAN conference was not complete without "Field Training," in which the PLAN participants went to a local clinic to practice the unlawful tactics they had agreed to use. One agenda included a "Day of Amnesty" on which PLAN members threatened abortion providers all across the country that if they did not close voluntarily, they would be closed by tactics such as blockades.

It's important to dispel the myth that PLAN engaged in nothing but peaceful, First Amendment-protected activity. It did not. PLAN's blockades, invasions and the other RICO violations that the jury found PLAN committed are acts of force and violence. The jury heard testimony from patients and clinic workers who were attacked during PLAN's blockades, including blockades at which Joseph Scheidler and Randall Terry were personally on the scene. One doctor, Dr. Susan Wicklund, was grabbed and slammed against a car as she tried to get through the blockade and into her office. Patients were tripped and pushed to the ground. One clinic administrator was grabbed by her hair and thrown to the ground by an Operation Rescue leader. Another was viciously choked by Operation Rescue protesters, leaving serious bruises on her neck. One patient, who was trying to enter the clinic -- not for an abortion but for post-operative care following cancer surgery -- was beaten with an Operation Rescue protester's sign. The protesters clawed at her and attacked her, causing her sutures to rupture, and she passed out. This is not speech or advocacy.

This case is not about First Amendment activity. My clients have never objected to peaceful picketing, leafletting, or even to hateful, ugly speech by abortion opponents. Calling our clients "murderers," "whores" and "sluts" is not a RICO violation, and we have never claimed it is. The First Amendment protects speech, even ugly speech. But it does not protect the acts of force and violence on which our suit was based. Our case was not based on speech or advocacy, but on acts and threats of force and violence.

The armed and violent wing of the theocratic movement in the United States got a big public relations boost from Scheidler, who has never wavered in his support for their activities.  Scheidler, ever a master of press relations, got quoted in the national AP story and other media  saying the case was about free speech. This is important because it would be a tremendous setback for the theocratic movement's push to define human reproduction in accordance with conservative Christian doctrines if the press and the public ever really focused on the three decades of violence against abortion providers -- the bombings, assasinations, arsons, death threats and bomb threats that most people would call domestic terrorism.

But Scheider managed to head off much further discussion of the violence that led to the law suit by getting quoted, unrebutted in the national media saying it is all about free speech.  And that is why Joseph Scheidler is our Theocrat of the Week.




Display:
here, and at theocratoftheweek@gmail.com

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun May 13, 2007 at 10:03:40 PM EST

Thank you for bringing to light the lack of scrutiny of this man's claims of nonvionlence.
In the late '70's, in his book, "Closed: 99 Ways to Stop Abortion," he bragged about a tactic which he said caused increased complication rates by as much as 400% at abortion clinics he targeted: he would herd his followers, all of whom were silent, as close as possible to a clinic building, when it could reasonably be assumed that abortions were being performed inside the building. At Scheidler's signal, the group would then suddenly make as much noise as possible. Clearly, the hope was that a startled doctor's hand would slip in mid-procedure

by nogodsnomasters on Mon May 14, 2007 at 09:39:40 AM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Celebrating Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week is the venerable annual celebration of the right to read and the highlighting of efforts by cultural vigilantes of various sorts......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Birthers, Birchers and Lee Harvey Oswald
"It would be more accurate to say that Oswald was his own agent, that he was moved to act by dint of his own......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Are Civil Rights and Religious Liberty Mutually Exclusive?
The question posed in the title might seem merely rhetorical:  but its not.  All sides, not to mention the media, often frame contemporary controversies......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Final Repudiation Of Phyllis Schlafly
Monday night around 9:40 I received an email with a curious subject line. "The Greatest American Woman, R.I.P.," it read. "Who could that be?"......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Is This the Dawning of the Age of Vulgar Demagoguery?
Before the end of GOP primaries, I wrote about how Catholic neo-conservatives couldn't bring themselves to support Donald Trump. Even now that he is......
By Frank Cocozzelli (5 comments)
Getting the Low Down on Dominionism
I am pleased to report that the task of getting the low down on dominionism may be becoming easier for scholars, journalists and activists.......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Dominionism Hiding in Plain Sight
Dominionism has been an evolving movement for a half century. Fed by two main streams, it has becoming a roaring current, tearing through American......
By Frederick Clarkson (9 comments)
Chancy Combo: Why The Founders Were Not Fans Of Preacher-Politicians
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has vowed to repeal a federal law that bars houses of worship (and other tax-exempt non-profits) from endorsing......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Beware The Gender Unicorn: Franklin Graham Takes Aim At The Transgender Community
Part of my job involves monitoring the activities of Religious Right groups, which means every day my email box receives messages from groups like......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
The Politics of Fear
Joseph Ellsworth McWilliams was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma.  He moved to New York City and became a Communist.  Later on he......
By wilkyjr (3 comments)
Persecution-Free Park: Religious Freedom Still Not Under Attack In America
I just got back from a week-long vacation with my wife and son. We were in Acadia National Park in Maine.On our second day......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Mike Pence and The Roots of the Right-Wing "Political Correctness" Conspiracy Theory
The term "Political Correctness" was hijacked by right-wing ideologues in the late 1980s to trivialize and disparage concern for basic human rights for people......
By Chip Berlet (4 comments)
Mike Pence in 2006 spearheaded a mean-spirited plan to deport all undocumented immigrants
Many of us know Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a nasty homophobe with a carefully-crafted respectable demeanor. But did you know that In 2006,......
By Chip Berlet (5 comments)
What's Past is Prologue: Dominionism is Still Rising
For a half century, a theocratic political movement has been rising in the U.S.  Like any large, successful movement in history, it has a......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
For Salon.com readers - On Donald Trump and William S. Lind
For readers clicking on the first link in Paul Rosenberg's Salon.com interview with Bruce Wilson, here is a link to my recent report (first......
By Bruce Wilson (3 comments)

Unions: A Labor Day Discussion
This is a revision of an article which I posted on my personal board and also on Dailykos. I had an interesting discussion on a discussion board concerning Unions. I tried to piece it......
Xulon (1 comment)
Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (4 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (1 comment)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 comments)
Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (5 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (2 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (4 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (11 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (3 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (1 comment)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (3 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.