Hate Speech Leads to Violence: In Wake of Abortion Doc Murder, Religious Leaders Skirt the Issue
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jun 03, 2009 at 11:08:27 AM EST
While everyone on both sides of the abortion issue seems to condemn the murder of George Tiller, few admit the malignant effects of "baby killer" rhetoric

In the immediate aftermath of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, words came flowing forth from every conceivable direction. The media reported, longtime anti-abortion activists "condemned," but few apologized for years of hate speech directed at Tiller.

In the hours following the murder and the subsequent condemnations from Religious Right leaders, I remembered Jerry Falwell's notorious post-9/11 remarks, blaming feminists and the ACLU, among others -- and the uncomfortable flip-flopping that followed. It was clear that his comments represented what he was thinking. Yet it was also clear, as he tried to backtrack and apologize, that he realized he had monumentally goofed.

I was reminded of those wretched Falwell maneuverings on Monday evening while watching Frank Schaeffer -- the son of the late Francis Schaeffer, one of the founding fathers and most revered figures on the Christian Right - point out during his appearance on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show that the condemnations of Tiller's murder issued by leaders of the Christian Right seemed forced and empty.

'He reaped what he sowed'

The statements from so-called mainstream anti-abortion leaders basically covered the same ground: they condemned the murder, expressed compassion for Tiller's family, and hoped that the perpetrator would soon be captured and brought to justice.

It was left to Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, to pick up Falwell's rhetorical baton. At a news conference at the National Press Club on Monday, June 1, Terry plainly stated that Tiller "was a mass murderer and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed."

Terry said that Tiller would be remembered as "one of the villains of history." "I grieve for Dr. Tiller because he left this life, perhaps without proper preparation to face God," Terry said. "The thought of him leaving this life with blood on his hands for having killed so many thousands of children and not having been prepared to meet his maker is a dreadful, terrifying thought."

Terry appeared to be verbalizing what others, more "respected" Christian Right leaders couldn't. Since Terry has been outside the mainstream for years, he had the license to say whatever he wanted; the more extremist his rhetoric, the more national media he would receive. For Dobson, Perkins, et al, they had the political realities to reckon with.

Sharing the blame

For Frank Schaeffer, the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Live to Take it All (or Almost All) of it Back, and who had for years been privy to the backroom conversations of Christian Right operatives, the condemnations were a sham. Schaeffer dramatically opened an op-ed piece in the June 2 Baltimore Sun by writing: "My late father and I share part of the blame for the murder of Dr. George Tiller ..."

He pointed out how his father had "compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler's Germany and said that whatever tactics would have been morally justified in removing Hitler would be justified in trying to stop abortion." And Frank Schaeffer also noted, quoting from his own book:

"Angry speech has become the norm in American religion from both the right and the left. Words are spoken which, when taken seriously, lead directly to violence by the unhinged and/or the truly committed."

While Schaeffer stated that abortion "should be legal," he also believes "that it should be re-regulated according to fetal development." Nevertheless, he recognizes that "the same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as `murderers.' And today, once again, the `pro-life' leaders are busy ducking their personal responsibility for people acting on their words.

"The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I'd like to say that I, and the people I worked with in the pro-life movement, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words."




Display:

WWW Talk To Action


Bishop Robert Finn Resigns Leadership of St. Joseph-Kansas City Diocese
Bishop Robert W. Finn, the Opus Dei Bishop who was convicted by a Missouri court for failing to report suspected child abuse by a......
By Frank Cocozzelli (5 comments)
Two Overlooked Indiana Outcomes that Could Haunt the Christian Right
I think there are two underreported features of the fallout from Indiana that we should make sure do not get lost in the hoo......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
President Obama Can Help Stop Religious Discrimination
Barry Lynn, the longtime executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, recently posted an important essay at Huffington Post. In......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Marriage Matters: Thoughts On The Recent Unpleasantness In Indiana
Last week I taped an interview with Sister Maureen Fielder, host of "Interfaith Voices," a popular radio program exploring religious issues that is carried......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
The Campaign Against Pro-LGBTQ Denominations
The recent endorsement of marriage equality by the Presbyterian Church (USA) seemed like a good moment to discuss the campaign to divide and conquer......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Upcoming Conference: From Abortion Rights to Social Justice
The 29th annual conference From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom will be held from April 10-12 at Hampshire......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Why Is Bishop Robert Finn Still In Power?
As I reported in September 2014, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has been under Vatican investigation to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Thus It Was Prophesied in 2012: Ted Cruz Will Be VP, Or a Supreme Court Justice
This is a transcript, of pastor Larry Huch and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, from an appearance Rafael Cruz made at......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Crusin with Cruz
Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, announcing his bid for President in the worship center at Jerry Falwell's University last night.  Mother......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Ted Cruz: Born From The Heart of the Dominionist Christian Right
[welcome, Thom Hartmann Show fans, here is a short introduction to my past coverage on Ted Cruz and the dominionist Christian right] Did you......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Coming Soon to Utah: An International Festival of Bigotry
An international network of some of the world's most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Bumpy Lane: Religious Right Operative Seeks To Build (Another) Church-Based Political Machine
Here's what the country doesn't need right now: another zealot aiming to mobilize right-wing pastors to become a force in electoral politics.Yet that's what......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Team Jeb Bush's Liaison to Religious Right Is Hardcore Culture Warrior
In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his......
By Bill Berkowitz (3 comments)
American ISIS: Christian Reconstructionists And `Biblical Law' In America
Every now and then, while scanning the day's news, I come across a headline that's hard to believe.Like this one: "California lawyer proposes ballot......
By Rob Boston (3 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 (0 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 (0 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 (3 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 (1 comment)
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 (0 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 (0 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 (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 (3 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 (5 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 (5 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 (2 comments)
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 (2 comments)
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 (1 comment)

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.