Will Bush Pardon an Antiabortion Terrorist?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 06, 2008 at 11:57:33 AM EST
There is an effort underway by Rev. Michael Bray, a convicted terrorist and a leader of the underground Army of God network to free one of their captured members. Shelly Shannon, (aka "Shaggy West") is serving a long sentence for the attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller and for a series of arsons across the West in the 90s. Bray is organzing a petition requesting that president Bush pardon her before his term expires. In his letter to the president, Bray describes Shannon "as a biblical Deborah or Jael or a Joan of Arc."

I have written a great deal about Bray and the Army of God, which has played a central role in the politics of abortion in our time, and has been driving force behind many of the 17 murders and hundreds of bombings and arsons that have ravaged womens reproductive health facilities and staff over the past few decades.  And while I doubt that Bray's effort will succeed in getting Shannon released, the campaign serves as an opportunity to highlight just a few aspects of this particularly dark side of the war of aggression being waged by the religious right against the civil and constitutional rights of others -- that pundits euphemize as "the culture war."

Bray served four years for his role in a series of bomings and arsons of clinics in the mid-Atlantic area in the 1980s. In one article for Salon.com I wrote:

After serving four years in prison for clinic bombings in the 1980s, the Rev. Michael Bray, author of the antiabortion manifesto "A Time to Kill," emerged as an ACLA [American Coalition of Life Activists] leader in the 1990s, and was involved in the launch of ACLA's "Deadly Dozen" wanted posters campaign in 1995 and the Nuremberg Files project in 1996. In "A Time to Kill," Bray advocates "the principle of revolution and the goal of establishing or preserving a Christian government," and declares that "Revolution may well be justified in our time of legalized sodomy, national apostasy (in the name of separation of church and state) and taxation to support child slaughter." ...

Bray and his accomplices also bombed the Washington offices of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Federation in 1984. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, headed the Washington office of the ACLU at the time of the bombing, and recalls how bomb fragments ripped a poster promoting the Bill of Rights that hung in his office. "These threats need to be taken seriously by anyone whose ideas run counter to these extremist groups."

The Army of God calls him a "Hero of the Faith", along with convicted murderers and arsonists and Clayton Waagner. I wrote for Salon:  

Only a couple of years ago, Clayton Waagner was one of three extreme-right American terrorists on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, a self-styled avenging angel of the unborn. In the autumn of 2001, at the apex of national fear about terrorist strikes and deadly anthrax attacks, he mailed hundreds of envelopes stuffed with white powder and threatening letters to abortion clinics and reproductive rights organizations -- all in the name of the antiabortion Army of God. Doctors, staffers, clients and their families were terrified, and hundreds of clinics were shut down. That made Clayton Waagner a celebrity, of sorts, and to some, a hero.

The Kansas blog What the Judge Ate for Breakfast has an excellent run down on the Shannon situation.  

Rev. Michael Bray of Maryland has an online petition to ask Bush to pardon Shelley Shannon, who shot Tiller at his clinic on Aug. 19, 1993.

Shannon finished serving her Kansas prison time for attempted murder and aggravated assault in April 2005. But she's now serving a federal sentence in Dublin, Calif., in connection with the shooting. She also was convicted of fire and bombing attacks on other abortion clinics, including those in Oregon, California and Nevada, which authorities learned about through letters she wrote from jail following Tiller's shooting.

Bray said in a statement on his Web site, defending Shannon:

"Unfortunately, as with all anti-abortion cases where the defenders of the innocents are charged with crimes and brought before the judges in this land, there is no consideration given to the `defense of necessity' -- that these interventions were necessary because a true human being is murdered in every intentional abortion."

"The suggestion of pardoning a violent criminal for the attempted murder of Dr. Tiller and attacks on abortion clinics highlights the twisted notion of life held by these domestic right-to-life terrorists, " said Dan Monnat, a Wichita lawyer who represents Tiller. "Her letters, which you can find on the Internet, say `don't insult me by saying I've repented.'"

Bray goes on to say in his statement that:

There is a name for a kind of government which punishes excessively for ideological or political crimes. It is called a tyranny. We who know that Shelley's deeds were noble and just and that she acted in good conscience... We who say that Rachelle Shannon ought never to have gone to jail but to have been rewarded with honor and a U.S. pension greater than any Congressman, Judge, or President for her service say now that her sentence ought to be commuted.

We request that Rachelle Shannon be released from prison immediately.


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