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Are Christians being targeted for violence?

Murder in Wichita, KS church, 2009

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Background to the assassination:

During G.W. Bush's eight years as president, there were no murders and no attempted murders of abortion providers in the U.S. There was one clinic bombing. There were 396 harassing calls to American abortion clinics -- an average of about one a week.

On 2009-JAN-20, President Barack Obama took office. During his first four months in office, the number of harassing calls jumped to 1,401 -- about 80 a week. Near the start of President Obama's fifth month in office, on Sunday, 2009-MAY-31, George Richard Tiller was assassinated by an anti-abortion domestic terrorist in Wichita, KS.

Many commentators suggest that Obama's presidency and this murder were related. Commentator Cristina Page wrote about the behavior of anti-abortion terrorists:

"One can only conclude that like terrorist sleeper cells, these extremists have now been set in motion. Indeed the evidence is already there. The chatter, the threats, the hate-filled rhetoric are abundant. ..."

"When the anti-abortion movement loses power, their most extreme elements appear to move to the fore and take control. The murder of Dr. Tiller suggests that violence against abortion providers may be far more linked to the power, or lack thereof, anti-abortion groups have politically than to laws designed to increase penalties against such acts."

"History has another disturbing lesson for us. The escalation of anti-abortion rhetoric plays a direct role in instigating violence. When anti-abortion groups ratchet up the rhetoric, they know exactly what they're doing and the results it will have. Even if they maintain deniability, as Operation Rescue recently did saying, in effect, we wanted Tiller gone, but didn't want him murdered, they have inflamed the rhetoric. And suddenly people Like Dr. Tiller's murderer become inspired." 1

It would seem that anti-abortion terrorist acts do increase during the terms of pro-choice presidents and decrease while pro-life presidents are in power. Ms. Page may be correct when she suggests that the fluctuation is due to the level of frustration felt by individual terrorists. During a pro-life administration, anti-abortionists may well feel assured that that the government may take action to further restrict abortion access. But during a pro-choice administration, they may feel threatened that abortions may become easier to obtain.

This may be a bit off topic, but it may be worth noting that the battle over abortion is not centered on the number of abortion performed, but the ease with which a pregnant woman may obtain an abortion.

bulletEssentially all of the effort by the pro-life movement is concentrated on making abortions less easily accessible.
bulletEssentially all of the effort by the pro-choice movement is to reverse the trend of declining abortion access.

Little effort seems to be directed by the two solitudes towards joining forces and concentrating on the one goal that they have in common -- that of reducing the number of abortions indirectly by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies. If policies seen in parts of Europe were adopted in the U.S., and proved equally effective, the number of abortions could be reduced to about 30% of their current level. Perhaps if these policies were introduced quickly, anti-abortionist terrorists could become more comfortable with a pro-choice president and keep their guns and explosives in storage.

The Assassination:

Dr. George Tiller was one of the few physicians in the U.S. who specialized in late-term abortions. He had been attacked before: his clinic was bombed in 19896. He was shot in borh arms in 1993. He received numerous death threats, wore body armor and traveled with a guard dog. He attended: the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, KS, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) -- a liberal denomination within the Lutheran movement. While acting as an usher at his church, he was shot in the head and killed by a lone terrorist.

Scott Roeder was charged with first degree murder and aggravated assault. The latter charge was based on his alleged threats to two ushers after the murder. The Los Angeles Times reported that he told a reporter that he did kill Dr. Tiller. 2 When he testified during his trial in his own defense, he admitted that he had murdered Tiller in an attempt to save unborn children. He later testified:

"From conception forward it is murder. ... It is not a man's job to take life. It is our heavenly father's. He is our creator."

Curiously, he did not apply the same logic to his own actions. God, who is normally perceived by Christians as all-knowing, all-present, and all-powerful, knew about Dr. Tiller's profession, was present whereever Dr. Tiller was, and had the ability to kill Tiller at any time. Yet he chose to let Dr. Killer live. It was Roeder who appears to have contradicted the wishes of God. 3

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Reactions to the assassination:

On the afternoon of the murder, Columnist Mike Hendricks of the Kansas City Star wrote:

"... the motive for the crime we can all surmise in light of the vitriolic  campaign that has been waged against Tiller for more than two decades by anti-abortion groups. And if we're right about that, then we already know the identities of his accomplices. They include every one who has ever called Tiller's late term abortion clinic a murder mill. Who ever called Tiller 'Tiller the Killer.' The groups who spent decades fomenting hate toward a man who simply believed that he was serving a purpose by being one of the few doctors in the country performing late-term abortions. Hate. Not heated opposition. Not strong disagreement. But blind hatred. The kind of hate that would prompt some maniac to take a  gun into a church and shoot a man to death in front of friends and family. His accomplices know they have blood on their hands, which might explain why they were quick to issue statements today expressing disapproval of Tiller's murder." 4

"Doc75" posted the following response to Hendricks' editorial:

"There are thousands of people in Kansas and Missouri who are pro-life -- pro-life for unborn children and pro-life for late-term abortion doctors. Unlike today's trigger puller, these pro-life people are consistent in their beliefs: all have a right to life. Yet you dare to place the blood of Mr. Tiller on their hands. That's shameful. Perhaps you are subtly suggesting violence and prejudice against all pro-lifers."

"I would also wish you are as incensed about what happened on a daily basis in his clinic as you are about the events of today. But you are not and perhaps the word that fits your article so well is the hot-button word you wielded clumsily: 'hypocrisy'." 4

The pro-life group Operation Rescue. quickly issued a statement titled: "Operation Rescue denounces the killing of abortionist Tiller" read the headline of a new release posted on that group's website. It said:

"We are shocked at this morning’s disturbing news that Mr. Tiller was gunned down. Operation Rescue has worked for years through peaceful, legal means, and through the proper channels to see him brought to justice. We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning. We pray for Mr. Tiller’s family that they will find comfort and healing that can only be found in Jesus Christ." 4

Operation Rescue is allegedly the creator of the slogan: "Tiller the killer."

Randall Terry, the original founder of Operation Rescue issued a personal statement:

"George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder."

"Those men and women who slaughter the unborn are murderers according to the Law of God. We must continue to expose them in our communities and peacefully protest them at their offices and homes, and yes, even their churches." 4

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At the trial:

The jury took only 37 minutes to find Scott Roeder, 51, guilty of premeditated first-degree murder of Dr. Tiller, and aggravated assault against two church ushers. He will be sentenced on 2010-MAR-09 and faces a mandatory minimum life sentence with the possibility of parole after 25 years. However Prosecutor Nola Foulston said that she would ask for a "Hard 50" sentence: life imprisonment with parole possible after 50 years, when Roeder would be over 100 years of age.

Dr. Tiller's wife, Jeanne Tiller said: "once again, a Sedwick County jury has reached a just verdict." His family said it wanted Tiller to be "... remembered for his legacy of service to women, the help he provided for those who needed it and the love and happiness he provided us as a husband, father and grandfather."

The Army of God's website has a "Scott Roeder American Hero Page" online. 4 It includes some artwork by Scott Roeder. Drawing 3 explains the conflict over abortion very well. It features a woman at Dr. Tiller's tombstone saying "I choose to grieve rather than retaliate. I choose perseverance over intimidation. I choose lover over hate." Behind her is a man who says simply: "I choose to protect precious babies." 6

References:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Cristina Page, "The Murder of Dr. Tiller, a Foreshadowing," The Huffington Post, 2009-MAY-31, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  2. "Top 10 Crime Stories: 6. Murdering the Abortionist." Time, at: http://www.time.com/
  3. Jaime Oppenheimer, "Defendant testifies abortion-doctor kill," Associated Press, 2010-JAN-28, at: http://www.time.com/
  4. Mike Hendricks, "Hendricks: Tiller's killers were many," Kansas City Star, 2009-MAY-31, at:
  5. "Scott Roeder American Hero page," The Army of God, at: http://www.armyofgod.com/
  6. "Scott Roeder Artwork, The Army of God," at: http://www.armyofgod.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Religious conflicts  here

Home page > Christianity > Christian history, beliefs... > Violence > here

Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally posted: 2010-FEB-07 
Latest update: 2010-FEB-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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