Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dr. Tiller, The Law and the 'Fear of God'

Last weekend, after years of attacks by religious anti-abortion groups against himself his property and his staff, lawful abortion specialist Dr. Tiller was finally killed in the foyer of his church; long-time religious militant abortion opponent Scott Roeder is now charged with his murder.

Two years ago in Denver, Colorado, another abortion protest incident occurred in the foyer of a place of worship which also involved militant abortion opponents. In that particular case the local police responded immediately and no-one was killed.

In the subsequent trial of the accused, the litigant's spokeswoman asked the judge to "consider the safety of ministry employees and visitors" when handing down the sentences.

Did you catch that?

The incident that the police so efficaciously reacted-to did not involve a confrontation between legal abortion providers and abortion opponents, but rather between two factions of the anti-abortion movement and with the aggrieved party asking for future protection from harassment and possible violence.


After years of vandalism, fire-bombing, death threats and an assault with a deadly weapon by members of religious groups, Scott Roeder was observed by eye-witnesses and recorded on videotape in felony acts by attempting to sabotage the locks on Dr Tiller's clinic---a federal offense under the FACE act.

The clinic provided the local police with the evidence of Roeder's felony and the police did absolutely nothing.

That left Roeder free to take his anti-abortion crusade to the next level in which he "allegedly" murdered Dr Tiller in a church foyer a few days later.

Granted, an act of vandalism is no predictor of murderous intent, but it is an indicator of violent tendencies. Furthermore Roeder had to know he was committing a federal offense and he had to know he might be exposed by the clinic security cameras, yet he took the risk anyway.

So, two years prior to Dr. Tiller's murder, extreme abortion opponents terrorized another establishment that was also protected by FACE statutes.

As the vigilant (and subtly snarky) Wendy Norris of the Colorado Independent reports:

Rev. Bob Enyart, a pastor at Denver Bible Church who proudly refers to himself as "America's most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host" was sentenced to nine days in the city pokey after refusing to pay a $400 fine for trespassing on the Focus [on the Family] campus.

Enyart, his brother Brian and fellow Denver Bible Church pastor Kenneth Scott were convicted May 8 [2009] in a one-day trial after the trio staged a Sept. 4 [2008] protest in the reception area of the multi-million dollar Christian ministry and publishing empire.

Got that? Two hyperbolic 'Christian' political factions got into a spat in the foyer of what passes for a place of worship, the police stepped in the whole thing got settled in a court of Law.

The FACE Act which was originally designed specifically to protect legal abortion clinics from aggressive and disruptive protest actions also contains protections for "places of worship" too---which is why FACE passed the Republican-controlled Congress at the time.

As the Colorado Independent reported at the time of the confrontation:

Bob Enyart's 2007 one-hour sit-in at James Dobson's place of worship was supported amongst others by the extremely militant Operation Rescue director Flip Benham.

Focus spokeswoman Lisa Anderson asked the judge to consider the safety of ministry employees and visitors when handing down the sentences.

In other words Focus on the Family wanted a deterrent judgment against the defendants and not just a routine misdemeanor punishment, for fear of further and more aggressive incidents.

The Colorado dispute revolved around Bob Enyart's belief that FotF needed to be more militant in its anti-abortion activities.

As Enyart had the support of Operation Rescue---which despite the FACE Act had been physically attacking Dr Tiller's clinic for years ---Lisa Andersen had good reason to fear continued harassment and possible violence against FotF members from Operation Rescue and its faithful, even though they were both supposedly on the same side.

Arguably Enyart could have been charged under the FACE Act instead of common Trespass but the fact remains that this single non-violent act of harassment by one very militant religious group against another less-militant one was dealt with effectively by the local authorities.

In comparison the Wichita police were provided with all the evidence they needed to arrest Scott Roeder immediately and charge him with a federal crime. They could have involved the FBI. Roeder could have been held on bail and if he made bail he could have been monitored by the FBI whilst awaiting trial.

Instead, nothing was done.

Dr Tiller is now dead, his clinic now closed, his employees now unemployed and women are further denied their legal and medical rights.

Meanwhile radical officially 'religious' groups use the particulars and principles of secular law for their own convenience and benefit even as they refuse to abide by them and seek to overthrow them, actively or passively abetted by supposedly secular authorities.

Scott Roeder was encouraged by religious leaders, his actions given justification by certain media authorities, his act enabled by the criminal negligence of the Wichita police and culpable Federal authorities.

When a religious organization in Colorado felt threatened by another more militant religious group, secular authority acted on mere trespass, but when a secular organization in Kansas had been attacked multiple times with vandalism, fire-bombings and assaults with deadly weapons and given clear evidence to act, Wichita authorities did nothing.

If Focus on the Family feared Operation Rescue and it's violent ilk (despite their common cause), shouldn't those they commonly opposed fear even more?

And shouldn't the Wichita police have been more aggressive in exercising the authority of the law when they possessed clear evidence of a federal offense?

It's not 'God' we should fear, but rather the "fear of God" and the lack of fear of the self-professed institutional "God-fearing" zealots and the negligent deference constantly provided them by supposedly secular authorities.

Note: As I was composing and editing this post over Thursday /Friday it turned out that the obvious conclusions I drew from this small comparative study are indeed symptomatic of an endemic problem, as evidenced by this story from Friday:

Bush DOJ Failed to Enforce Federal Law Protecting Abortion Providers Anti-abortion Extremists.