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Obama Critics Ignore "Medieval Christian Threat" to Abortion Providers

February 8, 2015

During his address at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, President Obama pointed to the history of the Crusades and American slavery as obvious examples of those who "committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ." These self-evident truths elicited a furious--and sometimes comical--response from the usual suspects on the right. Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, whose own church was created in 1845 precisely to perpetuate slavery, branded Obama's remarks "an unfortunate attempt at a wrongheaded moral comparison." Louisiana Governor and Muslim "no-go zones" fabulist Bobby Jindal gave this sarcastic response to the President:

"We will be happy to keep an eye out for runaway Christians, but it would be nice if he would face the reality of the situation today. The Medieval Christian threat is under control, Mr. President. Please deal with the Radical Islamic threat today."

The American people should take Jindal up on his offer. After all, the FBI under the last three presidents has been warning about the domestic terror threat posed by anti-abortion extremists. As recent history shows, the Medieval Christian threat posed by the next Eric Rudolph or Scott Roeder is still very much with us.
Consider, for example, the Bureau's report issued during the Bush administration, "Terrorism: 2002 to 2005":

The terrorism preventions for 2002 through 2005 present a more diverse threat picture. Eight of the 14 recorded terrorism preventions stemmed from right-wing extremism, and included disruptions to plotting by individuals involved with the militia, white supremacist, constitutionalist and tax protestor, and anti-abortion movements.

While Sarah Palin declared in 2008 "I don't know if you're going to use the word terrorist there" to describe abortion clinic bombers, Bush Attorney General John Ashcroft showed no hesitation. "Terrorist" was the exact word to Ashcroft used in reference to Eric Rudolph when he was finally captured in 2003. That May, Ashcroft had this to say about the man who bombed the Atlanta Olympics Centennial Park in 1996, a gay nightclub and abortion clinic the next year and detonated another device at a Birmingham clinic in 1998:

"Today, Eric Robert Rudolph, the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list has been captured and will face American justice. American law enforcement's unyielding efforts to capture Eric Robert Rudolph have been rewarded. Working with law enforcement nationwide, the FBI always gets their man. This sends a clear message that we will never cease in our efforts to hunt down all terrorists, foreign or domestic, and stop them from harming the innocent...
The American people, most importantly the victims of these terrorist attacks, can rest easier knowing that another alleged killer is no longer a threat."

And to be sure, Eric Rudolph was a deadly threat. After pleading guilty to the bombings in Georgia and Alabama in April 2005, Rudolph in his rambling 11 page manifesto released in 2005, Rudolph explained that the motivation behind his crusade of carnage was legalized abortion and "aberrant sexual behavior":

"Abortion is murder. And when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern."

As CNN noted at the time, Rudolph said he had "nothing personal" against victims like off-duty policeman Robert Sanderson (killed in the Birmingham blast) and nurse Emily Lyons (who lost an eye and suffered other injuries). But he also had no remorse.

In his statement Wednesday, he said that while homosexuality does not pose a threat when kept in private, the "attempt to force society to accept and recognize this behavior" should be met with "force if necessary."
Rudolph also shed light on his intentions regarding the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. He called it an opportunity to shame the United States for its legalization of abortion. He said his goal was to knock out Atlanta's power grid and shut down the Olympics.

As it turns out, the "radicalization" of Eric Rudolph started early. Just days after his capture, Time summed up his evolution on June 9, 2003:

Rudolph did epitomize the modern militiaman. After his father died in 1981, his mother moved the family from Florida to rural Nantahala, N.C. When she enrolled Eric and his siblings in school, she refused to give their Social Security numbers, fearing the government could track them. She introduced them to several churches that followed "Christian Identity," a rabidly anti-Semitic philosophy; in ninth grade, Eric wrote an essay denying that the Holocaust took place.

After his terror attacks, "runaway Christian" Eric Rudolph was able to remain at large with the support of his friends and neighbors. He eluded a five year federal manhunt despite the $1 million bounty offered for his capture. As Time noted, that may not have been just because the survivalist skills he mastered in the forests of North Carolina:

Since he didn't look as if he had stumbled out of a cave, investigators believe Rudolph must have received help over the years. "If he's been living in a mobile home, you'd assume quite a few people knew he was there," says Ronald Baughn, a retired federal law-enforcement agent who helped investigate the Atlanta and Birmingham bombings. Indeed, Rudolph had become a local folk hero. In Murphy, T shirts and coffee mugs appeared saying RUN RUDOLPH, RUN.

Of course, Eric Rudolph has had plenty of company among the extremist ranks of the violent anti-abortion movement. In 2003, Presbyterian minister Paul Hill was executed for his 1994 murders of a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Would-be Texas clinic bomber Paul Ross Evans and James Kopp, the killer of Buffalo physician Barnett Slepian, were also American terrorists apparently devoted to killing in the name of Jesus. And among those the Army of God calls "Prisoners for Christ" is Shelley Shannon. In 1993, Shannon was sentenced to 10 years in a Kansas prison for shooting Dr. Tiller in both arms outside his clinic. Two years later, Shannon pled guilty to setting fires to abortion clinics in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and California. And as the New York Times recounted in 1995, Shannon was quite clear as to whether she considered her crimes terrorism:

Handcuffed and nondescript in jailhouse blues, Shelley Shannon, a housewife from rural Oregon, stood before a Federal judge here on June 7 and admitted waging a terrorism campaign against abortion clinics and doctors.

As it turns out, Shelley Shannon had a big fan in Scott Roeder, the man who assassinated Dr. George Tiller in 2009. Roeder, who used to visit Shannon in prison, now has jailhouse well-wishers of his own. They include the Rev. Donald Spitz, the director of Pro-Life Virginia, who calls Roeder an "American hero."
Roeder is no hero, but a cold-blooded killer pure and simple. He, Rudolph, Shannon, Kopp and their ilk are domestic terrorists. And the message President Obama wanted to send to Muslim Americans, Christian Americans, Jewish Americans--all Americans--applies to these anti-abortion zealots as much as to Major Nidal Hassan or Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

And so, as people of faith, we are summoned to push back against those who try to distort our religion -- any religion -- for their own nihilistic ends. And here at home and around the world, we will constantly reaffirm that fundamental freedom -- freedom of religion -- the right to practice our faith how we choose, to change our faith if we choose, to practice no faith at all if we choose, and to do so free of persecution and fear and discrimination.

That sounds like a fitting moral for any American President to deliver at the National Prayer Breakfast.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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