Editorial: The Naked Face Of Fundamentalism

Dr. George Tiller, one of three – count 'em, THREE (3) – people in the United States (population: about 300 million) still willing to perform late term abortions – was shot to death just inside the door of his church in Wichita, where he was serving as an usher.

Tiller began his OB/GYN practice in Wichita in 1970, and began performing abortions almost as soon as Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. His clinic was bombed in 1985, forcing him to rebuild and install bulletproof glass, and in 1991, the extremist anti-abortion group Operation Rescue began a massive protest against his clinic which lasted for six weeks and resulted in about 2,800 arrests of protesters. Two years later – and just five months after the assassination of abortion provider Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Fla. – another religious nutjob, Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon, shot him in both arms as he was leaving his clinic for the day.

Tiller had also been the target of relentless legal attacks from Kansas' ultra-conservative attorney general Phill Kline, who in 2006 charged Tiller with 30 misdemeanors for having performed abortions on minors – the charged were thrown out – and Kline's successor, Paul Morrison, who in 2007 charged Tiller with 19 misdemeanors for abortions performed at his clinic. A jury found Tiller not guilty of all charges, but before that, Kline became a regular on the conservative conference circuit.

Tiller's likely killer was one Scott Roeder, another rightwing extremist/fundamentalist who'd belonged to such groups as the "Freemen" and more recently the "Army of God," which after the Gunn shooting posted a "Defensive Action Statement" which read, "We, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life including the use of force. We proclaim that whatever force is legitimate to defend the life of a born child is legitimate to defend the life of an unborn child. We assert that if Michael Griffin did in fact kill David Gunn, his use of lethal force was justifiable provided it was carried out for the purpose of defending the lives of unborn children. Therefore, he ought to be acquitted of the charges against him." One of the signers was Paul J. Hill, who on July 29, 1994 killed OB/GYN Dr. John Britton and his volunteer escort James Barrett, and wounded Barrett's wife June, outside Britton's clinic in Pensacola.

Predictably, despite the Department of Homeland Security's recent warning that people who "are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration" may be susceptible to recruitment by "extremists" bent on carrying out violent attacks, all of the anti-abortion groups and reactionary rightwing commentators and Websites have disclaimed any culpability for Tiller's assassination. These would include Bill O'Reilly, who referred to "Tiller the baby killer" on-air 28 times over the past four years, and who said of Tiller, "And if the state of Kansas doesn't stop this man, then anybody who prevents that from happening has blood on their hands." They would include Ann Coulter, who justified Tiller's death by noting that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America "instructs: 'A developing life in the womb does not have an absolute right to be born'," and added, "As long as we're deciding who does and doesn't have an 'absolute right to be born,' who's to say late-term abortionists have an 'absolute right' to live?" They would include "pro-life" blogger Gingi Edmonds, who wrote, "Someone just shot a Nazi guard manning the gas chamber at Aushwitz [sic]. I should feel bad about this?" They would include Parents Television Council founder Brent Bozell, who wrote, "George Tiller was a monster who personally murdered 60,000 babies. May God have mercy on his soul." They include Dr. Alveda King of Priests for Life, who told the fundamentalist OneNewsNow, "I'm hoping that people will remember that little babies are being murdered in America by the thousands, and that has not been called a hate crime. While it is hateful to gun someone down in a church — and yes it is; it really, really is — it is also hateful for us to stand by and approve the murder of our little babies." (According to a OneNewsNow poll, the primary reason the "secular media has tended to discount or ignore pro-life groups' statements detaching themselves from George Tiller's shooter" is that, "They want to demonize the pro-life movement, not humanize it.")

There's plenty more in this vein, but the point is that murderers like Roeder and Hill and Griffin don't pull their views on abortion out of thin air; they get them from supposedly "pro-life" religious leaders and conservative radio and TV talkers who continue to speak of abortion as "murder" and of abortionists as "killers" and "minions of Satan."

"What we did is, we talked one game to the large public and we talked another game amongst ourselves," admitted former fundamentalist Frank Schaeffer. "And amongst ourselves, we were very radical. And I don't think it takes much imagination to guess that, tonight, there are people who are publicly saying, 'This is terrible; we never advocated killing; abortion is murder, but we didn't mean people to take us this seriously.' But in private, you know, if these folks popped champagne bottles, they would be drinking a toast to this murder tonight."

And one last point: Wiley Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, and former VP running mate of Alan Keyes, said on Alan Colmes radio show that he was glad Tiller was dead, and that he had said "imprecatory prayers" – praying passages from the Psalms asking God to bring death and misfortune on his enemies – on Tiller ... and one other person: "The usurper that is in the White House is one — B. Hussein Obama."