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"ARMY OF GOD" CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR ATLANTA BOMBINGS

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Sponsored link.

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Sources: Reuters News Agency, 1997-FEB-24; Associated Press, 1997-FEB-26

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A militant fundamentalist Christian group, the Army of God claimed responsibility FEB-24 for recent bombings in Atlanta GA of an abortion clinic and a gay/lesbian nightclub. A group called by this name has been known to the FBI; they have circulated bomb-making manuals which advocate how to blow up abortion clinics. The letter described the bombs' design and set up a mechanism by which future claims of responsibility could be confirmed for upcoming bombings. They threatened total war against the federal government and promised to attack gays, lesbians, their organizations and supporters in the future.

The explosive devices at the abortion clinic and nightclub were packed with nails in order to maximize personal injury. A second bomb was left in an outside parking lot, apparently located and timed to try to kill investigators responding to the first blast. At least a half dozen people were injured outside the Sandy Springs abortion clinic when the second bomb went off. Five people were injured by the first blast at the Otherside Lounge.

Federal officials have concluded that these two bombings and the deadly Centennial Olympic Park bombings bear points of similarity. They have speculated that a serial bomber may be at large in Atlanta.

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Sponsored link:

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Human Rights Campaign's News Release

On 1997-FEB-25, 4 days after the bombing, the Human Rights Campaign issued the following news release:
HRC CALLS ON CHRISTIAN COALITION, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL, TO CONDEMN BOMBING OF LESBIAN NIGHTCLUB IN ATLANTA

Both Organizations Were Quick To Repudiate Similar Clinic Bombing Last Month

WASHINGTON -- The Human Rights Campaign today called on Ralph Reed, leader of the Christian Coalition, and Gary Bauer, head of the Family Research Council, to condemn the bombing of an Atlanta gay bar, just as they condemned a similar bombing last month at a women's health clinic.

"The day of the Georgia clinic bombing, you quickly issued a statement condemning the act," HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch said in a letter to Reed. "Specifically, you said: `I join with the U.S. Catholic bishops who have stated that to commit violence in the name of pro-life is hypocrisy, pure and simple. The Christian Coalition condemns this reprehensible act of violence.'"

Birch noted that other leaders, including President Clinton, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell have denounced Friday night's bombing.

On Monday night, Clinton talked about the bombing in the context of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and last year's string of fires at predominantly black churches. "And I might say, the recent bombing of the gay nightclub in Atlanta reminds us that this work is not over," he said. "That was wrong, and we have to stand against those things. We have got to go forward together. We don't have anybody to waste."

Gingrich issued a statement Sunday calling the bombings "inexcusable acts of terrorism that should outrage all Americans and cannot be tolerated.

The bombing Friday night at The Otherside Lounge injured five people. A second bomb was found by police outside the bar and detonated without injuring anyone.

In her letter to Bauer, Birch recalled that on the day of the bombing at the Georgia women's clinic, he stated: "Violence is not an answer to violence. ... Family Research Council condemns today's acts of violence in Atlanta."

Birch asked both leaders why they have not issued similar condemnations in the bombing of the gay bar, particularly since law enforcement officials have indicated the two incidents might be related.

"Mr. Reed, I know you have in the past repudiated `racism and bigotry in all its ugly forms' and that you have urged Christian Coalition members not to demonize gay people," Birch continued. "I am not certain, however, that all of your members have heard that message."

She went on to note that last year, as arsons were destroying black churches in the South, Reed stepped forward and offered to help fight these senseless acts of violence. And he acknowledged that the white evangelical church may have contributed to the climate of racism in America.

Specifically, Reed said: "There was a time in our nation's history when the white evangelical church was not only on the sidelines but on the wrong side of the most central struggle for social justice in this century. I think that was wrong, I think we paid a price for that." He also noted that some white evangelicals in the South justified Jim Crow segregation by citing Scripture.

"Today, some people of faith cite the Bible to justify abhorrence of gay people," Birch wrote. "Today, we live in a climate where many people feel it is perfectly acceptable to voice this hatred. The distance between hurling an anti-gay epithet and planting a bomb in a gay bar is far too short. I urge you to join with other leaders in condemning this bombing and, I hope, fostering an America where it is unacceptable to vilify people because of their sexual orientation."

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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Text of the letter from HRC to Christian Coalition

Feb. 25, 1997

Mr. Ralph Reed Executive Director
The Christian Coalition
1801-L Sara Drive
Chesapeake, VA 23320

Dear Mr. Reed:

Last Friday night, as I'm sure you know, a bomb went off in a predominantly lesbian bar in Atlanta, injuring five people. Minutes later, a second bomb was detonated outside the bar by police. Law enforcement officials have noted the similarity between this bombing and the bombing of a women's health clinic in an Atlanta suburb on Jan. 16.

The day of the Georgia clinic bombing, you quickly issued a statement condemning the act. Specifically, you said: "I join with the U.S. Catholic bishops who have stated that to commit violence in the name of pro-life is hypocrisy, pure and simple. The Christian Coalition condemns this reprehensible act of violence."

I am writing this letter to ask why you have not issued a similar condemnation in the bombing of the gay bar. Leaders from President Clinton to House Speaker Newt Gingrich to Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell have denounced Friday night's bombing. President Clinton and Mayor Campbell both stated they believe the incident was motivated by hatred. Indeed, at least one of the claims of responsibility for the bombing -- which may or may not be authentic -- tied the two incidents together and warned of further acts of hate against gay people.

Mr. Reed, I know you have in the past repudiated "racism and bigotry in all its ugly forms" and that you have urged Christian Coalition members not to demonize gay people. I am not certain, however, that all of your members have heard that message. That's why I am asking you to issue a statement condemning the Atlanta bar bombing, just as you condemned the clinic bombing. If indeed these incidents are connected, it is logical to repudiate both. But even if they are not connected, they are both motivated by an irrational rage that must be countered in the strongest possible terms.

Last year, as arsons were destroying predominantly black churches in the South, you stepped forward to and offered to help fight these senseless acts of violence. You also acknowledged that the white evangelical church may have contributed to the climate of racism in America. Specifically, you said: "There was a time in our nation's history when the white evangelical church was not only on the sidelines but on the wrong side of the most central struggle for social justice in this century. I think that was wrong, I think we paid a price for that." You also noted that some white evangelicals in the South justified Jim Crow segregation by citing Scripture.

Today, some people of faith cite the Bible to justify abhorrence of gay people. Today, we live in a climate where many people feel it is perfectly acceptable to voice this hatred. The distance between hurling an anti-gay epithet and planting a bomb in a gay bar is far too short. I urge you to join with other leaders in condemning this bombing and, I hope, fostering an America where it is unacceptable to vilify people because of their sexual orientation.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Birch
Executive Director

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Response from the Christian Coalition

One day after the above letter was sent, the Christian Coalition ended its silence. They said that the bombing of the lesbian bar is "indefensible terrorism and cowardice." Ralph Reed, their Executive Director issued a statement saying that their organization "condemns as abhorrent and unacceptable the use of violence or terror to advance the pro-family cause or its values...We urge all those involved in the often contentious disagreements over the family and the state of our culture to speak out for their values using what Martin Luther King called the weapons of love, not the weapons of violence and terror."

Elizabeth Burch [with tongue obviously in cheek] responded to the CC statement positively saying that she hoped "this signals a willingness on his part to work toward protecting the sanctity of all American families -- including gay and lesbian families."

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the Christian Coalition through its publications promoted the sale of Legislating Immorality a book that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. Lynn said "Here is Ralph Reed selling hate literature...at the same time he says that violence is never justified...I do not remember Martin Luther King peddling hate literature."

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