The Politics of Hate
By: Celia Murray; Columnist
On Sunday, May 31, an act of terrorism was committed in this country. That act was the assassination of Dr. George Tiller who was gunned down inside his church in Wichita, KS. This was not the act of one crazed fanatic, but the end result of the indoctrination of Scott Roeder into religious and right-wing fanaticism.
Roeder, who has been arrested and charged with the murder of Dr. Tiller, may be said to have acted alone, but he did not. Rather, he was inspired, encouraged and driven by the hate speech of those who pretend to assume the moral high ground on the controversial issue of a woman’s right to choose. That such speech is commonplace is indisputable. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly referred to Dr. Tiller as “Tiller the Baby Killer.” Anti-abortion groups have posted on their websites photographs of Dr. Tiller and other providers of legal abortion; implicit in doing so is the command to their followers to take action.
Tiller had previously been the target of an assassination attempt, and at least three other providers of legal abortion have been murdered for no reason other than their profession. Roeder has a history of activism against a woman’s right to choose and had previously specifically targeted Dr. Tiller. Roeder posted a message on anti-abortion group Operation Rescue’s website calling for “prayers to shut down Tiller’s death camp.” He also encouraged people to have “a presence” inside Dr. Tiller’s church, and he was chased off the property of Dr. Tiller’s medical clinic while attempting to sabotage the facility’s locks just the day before the doctor’s murder.
After Dr. Tiller’s murder, many anti-abortionists applauded. Dan Holman of the anti-abortion group Missionaries to the Preborn told CNN that Tiller’s death was something “to cheer.” Other activists in the movement said Tiller’s murder was “absolutely justified.”
Frank Schaeffer was once a darling of the religious right. He produced and directed an anti-abortion film series in the late 1970s. He is the son of Francis Schaeffer, best-selling author of A Christian Manifesto, a book so important to James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that he gave away 100,000 copies. Mr. Schaeffer and his evangelical anti-abortion father were leaders in the early years of the anti-abortion movement and are credited with bringing Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan and countless Republican leaders into the fold. In A Christian Manifesto, the senior Schaeffer advocated force if all other methods for rolling back the abortion ruling of Roe v. Wade failed and compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany.
In an open letter on June 1, Frank Schaeffer acknowledged that both he and his father shared the blame, along with others, for the murder of Dr. Tiller. Said Schaeffer, “Until I got out the religious right and repented of my former hate-filled rhetoric I was both a leader of the so-called pro-life movement and a part of a Republican Party hate machine masquerading as the moral conscience of America.” Schaffer opines that while hyperbole from the pulpit from religious leaders is par for the course, angry speech has become the norm in American religion, and he warns that “words are spoken which – when taken seriously – lead directly to violence by the unhinged and/or truly committed.”
Schaeffer concluded his letter by saying, “The same hate machine I was part of is still attacking all abortionists as ‘murderers.’ … The people who stir up the fringe never take responsibility. But I’d like to say …after a man was murdered in cold blood for performing abortions that I – and the people I worked with in the religious right, the Republican Party, the pro-life movement and the Roman Catholic Church, all contributed to this killing by our foolish and incendiary words.”
Surely President Obama was right in his recent commencement address at Notre Dame and people on both sides of the pro-life / pro-choice debate can engage in a civil discussion of this controversial issue and leave the politics and speech of hate in the past.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Party.
Printed in the June 11, 2009 Edition.