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


Trump Meets Man Who Inspired 2011 Terror Attack Deadlier Than Orlando Shooting
"It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet" -- President Barack Obama, June 13, 2016,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
Terrorism as a "Marketing Method"
On the same day in 2011 during which he single-handedly blew up and shot to death 77 Norwegian citizens (mostly teenagers) and injured an......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Let's Can the Name Calling about Islam
President Obama rose to the occasion in the wake of the horror in Orlando. The president made clear in a speech on June 14th......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
50 Shades of Patriarchal Grey
In what must be one of the worst public relations disasters in university history, wealthy donors to Baylor University recently took out a full......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Pious Proclamation Panned: Iowa's Governor Goes Around The Bend With Bible-Touting Document
Some elected officials have a bad habit of releasing official proclamations lauding the Bible, Christianity or religion generally.We at Americans United find these proclamations......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Unreasonable Argument: Sometimes What Everyone Knows Just Isn't So
Over the weekend, a group of atheists, humanists, agnostics and others held a "Reason Rally" in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.Thousands......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Above The Law?: Ala. Chief Jurist Demands No Accountability
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is in legal hot water again and has no one to blame but himself - but, as usual, he......
By Rob Boston (11 comments)
Thomas More Was No Patron Of Religious Freedom
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is preparing to kick off its annual Fortnight for Freedom. This year the two weeks of......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Falling Starr
Reports from around the nation are reporting Ken Starr, President of Baylor University, has been fired as head of the Baptist school.  Other stories......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Bluegrass Bonanza: Ky. Theocrat Loses Grip On Statehouse Seat
Political news of late has been dominated by three people - Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They've certainly provided good copy, but......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Political Piety Panned: We Don't Need A 'God's Party'
Every few years, a political pundit comes along and proclaims that the Religious Right is dead or on the verge of dying. I started......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
Trump Campaign Tied To 2nd White Nationalist Party Leader
Even as Donald Trump seeks to tack to the center, and leave behind his earlier, wildly controversial statements on Hispanics and Muslims, mounting evidence......
By Bruce Wilson (4 comments)
Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party has Consequences
Those of us who write about the Religious Right and related matters often find ourselves wishing that we were wrong. Back in 2011 we......
By Frederick Clarkson (9 comments)
No Moore, Please: Ala. Chief Justice May Be Removed From The Bench
Word broke late Friday night that Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, may be on the verge of losing his job......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Road To Nowhere?: Ky. Officials Ramp Up Support For `Ark Park'
Officials in Kentucky have apparently decided that they're willing to endure a large amount of embarrassment if it will bring some mediocre jobs to......
By Rob Boston (6 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 (1 comment)
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 (6 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 (3 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 (4 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 (13 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 (8 comments)
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 (10 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 (6 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 (3 comments)
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 (14 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (7 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (9 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (13 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (8 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.