This is part 3 of a 5-part series.
Part I: The Lure of Christian Nationalism
Part II: Hang Ten and Fight!
Part III: A Deadly Culture of Life
Part IV: Pie in the Sky
Part V: “The Ayatollah of Holy Rollers”
America’s Religious Right – Saints or Subversives?
By Steve Weissman
t r u t h o u t | Investigation
Part III: A Deadly Culture of Life
Tuesday 26 April 2005
“Our goal is a Christian Nation…. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want Pluralism. We want theocracy. Theocracy means God rules. I’ve got a hot flash. God rules.”
— Randall Terry, Head of Operation Rescue, speaking in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on April 15, 1993, as reported the following day in The News-Sentinel.
Randall Terry claims he has mellowed, as most of us do with age. But, along with many of his fellow evangelicals, he remains aggressively committed to his goal of turning America into “a Christian nation.”
Appearing almost nightly last month on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC as the spokesman for the parents of the brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, the charismatic militant urged Florida’s Governor Jeb Bush to violate a court order and reinsert the feeding tube that had kept the poor woman in what her husband and doctors called “a persistent vegetative state” for nearly 15 years.
“If Gov. Bush wants to be the man that his brother is, he needs to step up to the plate like President Bush did when the United Nations told him not to go into Iraq,” Randall Terry proclaimed. “Be a man. Put politics aside.”
If the Brothers Bush and other Republican politicians did not do as he said, the 46 year-old Terry threatened political retribution:
I promise you, if she dies, there’s going to be hell to pay with pro-life, pro-family, Republican people of various legislative levels, both statewide and federally, who have used pro-life, pro-family, conservative rhetoric to get into power, and then when they have the power, they refuse to use it.
Feeling the heat from his right-wing base, President Bush publicly urged the courts to show “a presumption in favor of life.” Pope John Paul II had proclaimed a “culture of life” years before, and the president took every opportunity to repeat the phrase.
“It should be our goal as a nation,” he declared, “to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected – and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.”
Who could disagree? But what strange “culture of life” enables Mr. Bush to preach compassion as he pursues war? What “culture of life” embraces Randall Terry, who calls Mrs. Schiavo’s husband Michael “a monster” and openly preaches hatred, violence, and death?
A used car salesman and failed rock star, Terry created Operation Rescue in 1987, organizing violent blockades at abortion clinics around the country and openly applauding vandalism, arson, and the murder of doctors and clinic workers.
James Kopp, anti-abortion activist convicted of murdering Dr. Barnett A. Slepian.
(Photo: http://www.jameskopp.com) One of Terry’s closest co-workers – James Kopp – shot and killed Dr. Barnett A. Slepian, 52, a Buffalo obstetrician and gynecologist who performed abortions. Another of Terry’s cohorts – Pastor Matt Trewhella, founder of Missionaries to the Preborn – openly called for the formation of armed militias.
Terry himself spent five months in prison for sending one of his people to show a fetus to presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992, violating a federal court order. “If a Christian voted for Clinton, he sinned against God,” said Terry. “It’s that simple.”
More mouth than muscle, Terry generally restricted himself to justifying the killing of “abortion doctors” and promising their legal execution.
“When I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee,” he warned, “because we will find you, we will try you, and we will execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.”
Talking here to an August 1995 banquet of Howard Phillip’s Taxpayers Alliance, Terry announced a new leadership institute that would provide “three days of intense training on vision, courage, biblical ethics, raising up a cadre of people who are militant, who are fierce, who are unmerciful to the deeds of darkness, unmerciful to the ideologies of hell.”
Randall Terry, anti-abortion activist and one of America’s most outspoken Christian Nationalists.
(Photo: nndb.com) “If we’re going to have true reformation in America,” he declared, “it is because men once again, if I may use a worn out expression, have righteous testosterone flowing through their veins. They are not afraid of contempt for their contemporaries. They are not even here to get along. They are here to take over.”
With Terry’s view in mind, the Tax Payers Alliance has now become the Constitution Party, which promises “to restore our government to its Constitutional limits and our law to its Biblical foundation.” Roy Moore, the “Ten Commandments Judge,” is one of the party favorites, and has spoken at their events.
The party also continues to work closely with “the Patriot Movement” and its right-wing militias, including a number of groups that are virulently anti-Semitic, deny the Holocaust, and speak longingly of Der Fuhrer.
Far more troubling, Randall Terry’s vision seems to have also taken over much of the Republican Party, many of whose leading figures now openly pursue the same Christian Nationalism, deny the separation of church and state, and attack “unelected” federal and state judges.
“Mrs. Schiavo’s death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy,” proclaimed the GOP’s Tom DeLay, Majority Leader of the US House of Representatives.
“This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn, of Texas, went even further, appearing to justify violent attacks against judges.
“We seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that’s been on the news,” he said, “and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in – engage in violence.”
And now Bill Frist, the Senate Majority Leader and a leading contender for the GOP presidential bid in 2008, has joined with right-wing evangelicals in a TV extravaganza to portray the Democratic defense of traditional Senate filibuster rules as a radical attack on “People of Faith.”
“For years activist courts, aided by liberal interest groups like the ACLU, have been quietly working under the veil of the judiciary, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our Christian heritage and our religious freedoms,” declared Tony Perkins, the chief lobbyist for one of the sponsoring groups, the Family Research Council.
“We must stop this unprecedented filibuster of people of faith.”
When so many Republican leaders and their evangelical allies sound so much like Randall Terry, we can only wonder whether the Grand Old Party will ever again find the voice of reason.
A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he writes for t r u t h o u t.