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Anti-abortionists and white supremacists make common cause.

The third shooting of an abortion doctor in less than eighteen months embarrassed many in the anti-abortion movement. The murders of Dr. John Britton and his volunteer clinic escort at the Ladies Center in Pensacola, Florida, in July dramatically exposed an underground network of fanatics perversely dedicated to practicing violence in the name of the "sanctity of human life." This violence is fueled, in part, by links between the anti-abortion movement and white-supremacist ideology.

Bigots and terrorists have long hung around the fringes of the anti-abortion movement, but connections that have recently come to light among the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi skinheads, and anti-abortionists now threaten to discredit anti-abortion groups. These connections are more than a fluke. Religious zealotry, nostalgia for a more culturally "pure" America, and a frightening rhetoric that encourages violence in the name of deeply held ideals fuels white supremacists and many anti-abortionists alike. It is not surprising, then, that the membership and leadership of these groups tend to overlap.

Even as some leaders of the anti-abortion movement hurried to distance themselves from the recent vicious attacks on doctors and clinics, the Florida-based Templar Knights of the Ku Klux Klan sponsored a rally on August 21 in support of Paul Hill, the man accused of shooting Dr. Britton and his escort, James Barrett.

White supremacist leaders have seized on abortion as a new rallying point for the White Revolution. Tim Bishop, a representative of the Aryan Nations, bragged about joining the anti-abortion movement in an interview for Reform Judaism magazine: "Lots of our people join in.... It's part of our Holy War for the pure Aryan race."

The American Front, a Portland-based skinhead group that has swollen the ranks of Operation Rescue protesters at Oregon clinics, printed the following declaration: "The 'Great Democracy' enforces your right to Blow Dope, Turn Queer, Marry a Nigger, Kill the Unborn, and do anything else to destroy America. ... We Prefer Revolution to SMASH IT! and replace it with a healthy WHITE MAN'S ORDER!"

In March, John Burt, regional director of the anti-abortion group Rescue America, told a New York Times reporter, "Fundamentalist Christians and those people [the Ku Klux Klan] are pretty close, scary close, fighting for God and country. Some day we may all be in the trenches together in the fight against the slaughter of unborn children."

Burt himself, who concedes he is a former Florida Klansman, is closely involved with people accused of killing abortion doctors. He was a constant figure of support through the trial of the bombers who targeted the Ladies Center and other clinics in December 1984--James and Kathy Simmons, Matthew Goldsby, and Kaye Wiggins. When asked why he supported the bombers, Burt replied, "I would go out and blow up a clinic and have no qualms about it except that I'm scared of being caught."

Michael Griffin, the man who murdered Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida, in March of last year, was a volunteer at Our Father's House, a home for unwed mothers run by Burt. The Sunday before Gunn was murdered, Griffin went to church with Burt and prayed aloud that Gunn would give his life to Jesus Christ.

Burt was also an associate of Paul Hill, the man accused of killing Dr. John Britton. In August 1993, according to Life Advocate, an anti-abortion magazine, Hill and Burt came to the Ladies Center determined to get a picture of Britton so that they could identify the doctor who replaced Gunn. Working with Hill, Burt and other associates were finally able to identify the doctor. They then used the doctor's personal information to develop a WANTED poster "exposing the man for the butcher that he is," according to the magazine.

Both Burt and Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, routinely use WANTED posters against their enemies. In 1985, the Ku Klux Klan originated this practice against doctors who perform abortions.

The White Patriot Party, formerly the Confederate Knights of the KKK, issued a death threat against Dr. Bernard Nathanson in June 1985 in a newspaper called The Confederate Leader: "Jew abortion king, Bernard Nathanson, of New York City, was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by hanging by a fair and unbiased judge and jury of the White Patriots on May 19 in Siler City, North Carolina. Nathanson was convicted of 55,000 counts of first-degree murder, treason against the United States of America, and conspiracy to commit genocide against the White Race."

In 1992 in Alabama, Randall Terry issued his first WANTED poster, reminiscent of those issued by the Klan. Terry circulated a poster with David Gunn's photograph, home address, telephone number, and itinerary that said: WANTED: FOR MURDER AND CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY TO DEFENSELESS UNBORN BABIES. GUNN IS HEAVILY ARMED AND DANGEROUS. Gunn was murdered by Michael Griffin in Pensacola in March 1993.

Even after Gunn was killed, Randall Terry said the following in a live radio interview about a Colorado abortion doctor: "I hope some day he is tried for crimes against humanity and I hope he is executed. I make no bones about it, friends, it is a Biblical part of Christianity that we pray for either the conversion or the judgment of the enemies of God."

In a speech he gave in Cleveland in July 1993, Randall Terry said, "America is under the judgment of God. The hurricanes, the floods.... AIDS is the great judgment of God because we have rejected his holy law. If America is ever going to recover as a nation, we must rebuild this country on the Ten Commandments."

The Ku Klux Klan, meanwhile, has been producing the same sort of rhetoric about abortion doctors: "More than ten million white babies have been murdered through Jewish-engineered legalized abortion since 1973 here in America and more than a million per year are being slaughtered this way," the Confederate Knights declared in a printed statement. "The Klan understands that this is just one of many tools used to destroy the white race and we know who it is."

Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance, supported Britton's alleged assassin Paul Hill: "You've got to admit this guy has some style at least; he's not begging for mercy but smiling at his keepers.... If the guy who did the shooting in some way protected Aryan women and children, then WAR condones the killing."

Other racists chimed in. Former Invisible Empire Knights KKK leader John Baumgardner of Florida claims the killing of Britton was a political assassination. Baumgardner finds "some merit in the deed," but is dissatisfied with unsupportive attitudes of some in the anti-abortion movement.

The affinity between white supremacists and radical anti-abortionists springs, in part, from a peculiar set of religious beliefs which members of both groups hold in common.

Before he became famous for allegedly murdering Britton, Paul Hill was well-known as an Orthodox Presbyterian minister whose book Should We Defend Born and Unborn Children with Force? was widely read in militant anti-abortion circles. Hill borrows the same story from the Bible which the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement uses to justify its violence--that of Phineas and Zimri. Phineas was a priest who murdered Zimri and her lover by driving a spear through them in the tent where they made love. The story has become symbolic to fanatics who believe they have orders from God to kill sinners. The Phineas Priesthood emerged in the 1990s as the primary whitesupremacist group that advocates murdering people for interracial mixing.

For his part, Hill envisions an underground of anti-abortion assassins who murder people for "disobeying God's laws" regarding abortion, homosexuality, and other "crimes." Hill's group, Defensive Action, issued a statement signed by twenty-nine well-known anti-abortion activists defending Griffin's actions:

"We, the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all godly action necessary to defend innocent life including the use of force.... 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."

Many militant anti-abortionists, including Randall Terry, belong to organizations affiliated with a sect known as the Christian Patriots. Christian Patriots believe, among other things, that all Federal tax and welfare programs should be eliminated. Terry is a member of the U.S. Taxpayers Alliance, a Christian Patriots group that grew out of the tax protest movement in the 1970s. According to 1992 literature distributed by the Alliance, the group wants to abolish "all Federal expenditures which are not specifically authorized in the U.S. Constitution." The notorious Posse Comitatus is another Christian Patriots group. Among other things, the Christian Patriots advocate the use of citizen-organized militias to combat alleged conspiracies by foreign governments. Opposition to abortion also unites them.

According to Christian Identity, another sect which provides the dominant theology of the white-supremacist movement, whites are God's chosen people, only white Aryans have souls, and it is appropriate for Christians to murder anyone who engages in race-mixing, performs abortions, or practices homosexuality.

Fundamentalists who belong to the Christian Reconstructionist sect believe many of the same things (see main story). They interpret the Bible literally, and believe Biblical law should replace civil law. Followers of both religions believe that sinners must be killed to enforce Biblical law.

Even among those who believe in such things, only a small minority are willing to commit murder. The underground of the anti-abortion movement, like the underground of the white supremacist movement, is made up mainly of alienated, underemployed white men.

But while some anti-abortionists attempt to portray Michael Griffin and Paul Hill as lone psychos, their actions follow from the rhetoric of their leaders. Griffin and Hill belong to a network of people convinced that the only effective way to stop abortion is by destroying the "weak link"--the doctors. This strategy is encouraged by anti-abortion leaders who say, as David Crane of Operation Rescue in Virginia told the Capital Area Christian News: "Who committed the greater crime? The citizens who stand by and allow the children to be murdered or this one man who stopped a serial killer from killing more children?"

Through their rhetoric, organizing strategies, and guerrilla tactics, white supremacists and radical anti-abortion groups are working together toward a common vision of a white, Christian, American revolution.
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Article Details
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Author:Ross, Loretta J.
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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