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


Thomas DiLorenzo's Rebel Yelling
I have written a great deal in the past few years about the odd phenomenon of Catholic Neo-Confederatism.  Let's add one more name to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (1 comment)
Censorship Challenge: Texas Pastor Seeks Restrictions On `Dangerous' Library Books
Back in the 1990s, some Religious Right activists in Virginia got the bright idea to begin attacking America's public libraries. The idea was to......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Suspended St. Louis County Officer Dan Page Made Rounds on Rightwing Radio Shows
St. Louis Police Officer Dan Page drew national attention when he shoved CNN's Don Lemon during a broadcast of the protests in Ferguson, and......
By Rachel Tabachnick (1 comment)
Cop Who Shoved CNN Host Don Lemon Lassoed in Another Conspiracy Rodeo
Rachel Tabachnick broke an important story this evening showing that the rant by Officer Dan Page that got him suspended from the St.Louis County......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Exile Excitement: Some Fundamentalists Seek Escape From Decadent Society
OK, now we've done it. Those of us who advocate things like separation of church and state, secular government, LGBT rights and self-determination when......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Controversy Over White Nationalist GOP Candidate Still White Hot
The 2004 Constitution Party candidate for president Michael Peroutka's current race for County Council in Maryland -- as a Republican -- it is still......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Race, Republicans and the Religious Right
The Republicans have a race problem, and by this I don't just mean that racial minorities don't much vote for them, particularly in the......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Rev. William Barber on Religious/Political Inclusiveness
A few weeks ago, I posted about the extraordinary oration of Rev. William Barber at Netroots Nation. (A transcript of the speech is now......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Short Takes
Salon.com  Columnist Thomas Frank considers how snark can cut more than one way. What does it mean when being "on the left" is defined......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
David Brat as a "Libertarian Catholic" is an Oxymoron
David Brat, the Tea Party Young Turk who recently shocked the GOP establishment with his primary win over Majority Leader Eric Cantor, is reportedly,......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Kountze Cheerleaders Take on the Courts
The entire town of Kountze, Texas is in a frenzy with business banners, suv window paintings and legal action supporting their local cheerleaders. The......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
A Talk to Action Anthology on Neo-Confederacy, Nullification and Secession (Updated)
A number of posts over the past year have addressed the growing Neo-Confederate movement, the advocacy of nullification of federal laws, and even the......
By Frederick Clarkson (5 comments)
Good Incentives Gone Awry: Kentucky Officials Are Adamant About Propping Up The 'Ark Park'
I've lived in the Washington, D.C., suburbs since 1986, so when it comes to museums, I am spoiled. Just a short subway ride away......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
White Hot Controversy for a White Nationalist GOP Candidate
The controversy over Michael Peroutka's theocratic, white nationalist candidacy for county council, in Anne Arundel County, Maryland -- has gotten white hot after he......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Not Just Whistling 'Dixie': Peroutka Stands Up for Southern Secession - UPDATED x2!
Cross-posted from The Huffington Post. Michael Peroutka, the Republican candidate for Anne Arundel County Council, stood up for secession and the white nationalist League......
By jhutson (1 comment)

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 (2 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 (3 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 (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (1 comment)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (0 comments)
Robert Knight: Running against evolution could potentially be a winner for the GOP
In one of the starkest instances yet of how far gone the religious right is, one of its leading activists thinks that he's found another potential wedge issue that could drive more people into......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
First Catholic official convicted in child sex abuse scandal has conviction overturned
Last year, Monsignor William Lynn, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's secretary for clergy, was convicted of reassigning a priest whom he knew had molested a young boy to a parish that had a school attached......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Quotes From Sarah Palin 'War on Christmas" Book v. Quotes From 1920s Anti-Jewish Propaganda
The point of this comparison is not to cast Sarah Palin as a Nazi. Rather, my intent is to underline uncomfortable similarities between contemporary "war on Christmas" talking points propagated by elements of the......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Francis sets up commission on how to deal with pedophile priests
Late yesterday Pope Francis announced--apparently after some prodding--that he will set up a panel to advise him on how to deal with child abuse by priests. The announcement was a forthright acknowledgment by the......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
John Hagee: Jews will make deal with Antichrist before End Times
When John Hagee opens his mouth, you expect to hear lunacy.  An appearance earlier this month on TBN was no different.  On Friday, People for the American Way stumbled on a special prophecy-focused edition......
Christian Dem in NC (0 comments)
Doug Phillips Resigns From Vision Forum over "Inappropriate Relationship"
Doug Phillips resigned as president of Vision Forum earlier this week, citing an "inappropriate relationship."   Phillips posted an announcement on the Vision Forum website, stating, There has been serious sin in my life......
Rachel Tabachnick (2 comments)
A Wiccan Witch In Salem
Since it's only two weeks from Halloween, I made my usual foray into Christian Right Country to find out what their plans are for this Halloween. I don't know where to be sad or......
irishwitch (0 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.