southern poverty law

Hate In God’s Name – Part 4
September 25, 2017
Daryl Johnson
Islamophobia

Further, since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, there have been dozens of U.S. Mosques attacked by arson, bombings and vandalism. Many of these crimes remain unsolved. This rise in anti-Muslim attacks can be attributed to relatively new phenomenon derived from an intense hatred and fear of Muslims called “Islamophobia.” Within the past few years, militia extremists have started organizing armed protests outside of Islamic centers and mosques fearing a rise in Muslim terrorism, perceived encroachment of Sharia law in America, or out of pure hatred of Muslims and Islam.

In 2015, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an intelligence bulletin, noting that militia extremists were “expand[ing] their target sets to include Muslims.” More recently, a militia extremist group called “the Crusaders” plotted to detonate a vehicle bomb outside an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants in Wichita, Kansas. They reportedly hoped the planned truck bomb attack would incite a religious war between Christians and Muslims in the U.S. In October 2016, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein were arrested and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction to blow up the apartment complex which would have also destroyed a mosque, and killed many American Muslims. Some militia extremists have also provided support to gun stores and firing ranges in Arkansas, Florida and Oklahoma that were declared “Muslim Free Zones” by their owners. These types of activities are meant to harass and intimidate an entire faith-based community. They are likely inspired by militia extremists‟ personal religious views of preserving America as a Christian nation.

Anti-abortion extremists

The pro-life movement in the United States bases its cause on Bible scriptures, such as Matthew 19:14 “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” It transformed rather quickly from a conservative Christian-based fringe movement in the early 1980s to a large-scale political and cultural force in the U.S. during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

During this time period, the reenergized pro-life movement comprised tens of thousands of “rescuers” who participated in frequent rallies and protests at women‟s health care providers nationwide. In her article “The Children‟s Crusade,” reporter Tamara Jones summarizes how anti-abortion activism systematically evolved into violence, stating that initial peaceful protests soon changed into acts of civil disturbance as protestors began blocking patrons from entering the clinics. “Acts of small-scale vandalism eventually evolved into larger, more damaging acts of sabotage,” Jones says. “Some who shouted "murderer" outside abortion clinics became killers themselves and antiabortion activism became, at its most extreme, a form of domestic terrorism.”

While a majority of pro-life movement members employ peaceful and legal means to advance their goals, a number of violent anti-abortion extremists have demonstrated their intent and capability to carry out attacks designed to cause property damage and loss of life. Like other domestic terrorists in the U.S., violent anti-abortion extremists adhere to a “leaderless resistance” structure. As a result, prominent anti-abortion extremist spokespersons, referred to as “ideologues,” conspicuously promote violence under the banner of the Army of God (AOG) and its anti-abortion extremist ideology.

The violent anti-abortion extremist movement has utilized many criminal tactics to further their goals, which range from acts of civil disturbance, such as human blockades and vandalism, to shootings and fire bombings. Violent anti-abortion extremists have also been known to stalk doctors who practice abortion, as well as issue physical threats, conduct chemical attacks and mail anthrax hoax letters.

Anti-abortion-related criminal activity in the U.S. has increased in recent years after experiencing a significant drop during the early 2000s in comparison to peak periods in the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. For example, in May 2009, Scott Roeder, a known anti-abortion extremist, murdered Dr. George Tiller at a church in Wichita, Kansas. During 2015, there were several attacks against Planned Parenthood clinics in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Washington and California. Most of the 2015 attacks were likely related to increased media coverage of government funding of Planned Parenthood as well as an undercover video controversy involving Planned Parenthood allegedly selling fetal body parts. The Planned Parenthood controversy was later debunked on national news. However, the national media‟s debunking of the video scandal did not stop a violent anti-abortion extremist from conducting a deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado. On November 27, 2015, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire on patrons and police officers at an abortion clinic with an assault rifle, killing three and wounding nine others.

Christian Extremist Ideology

Violent anti-abortion extremist ideology is based solely on Christian religious beliefs and the use of Biblical scripture. A review of violent anti-abortion extremist propaganda online is filled with Biblical references to God and Jesus Christ, which they believe sanction their violent actions. Many of the scriptures quoted in violent anti-abortion extremist propaganda focus on protecting children, fighting against evil doers, and standing up to iniquity or sin.

According to the Army of God manual, America is described as “a nation under the power of Evil — Satan, who prowls about the world seeking the ruin of the souls of mankind.” It is “a nation ruled by a godless civil authority that is dominated by humanism, moral nihilism, and new-age perversion of the high standards upon which Godly society must be founded, if it is to endure.”

Violent anti-abortion extremists use religious and moral beliefs to justify violence against abortion providers, their staff and facilities. Violent anti-abortion extremists believe that human life begins at conception. For this reason, they equate abortion to murder. Using this logic, they rationalize that those performing abortions are murdering other human beings.

In John Powell‟s book Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, anti-abortion extremists equate the practice of abortion to a “silent holocaust.” Some anti-abortion extremists go as far as claiming abortion providers are actually “serial killers” and worthy of death. This sentiment is echoed in passages from the Army of God (AOG) manual in which they declare that that the killing of abortion providers is morally acceptable and justified as doing “God‟s work.” The ultimate goal of anti-abortion extremists is to rid the country of the practice of abortion and those who perform and assist with performing abortions.

Army of God

The Army of God (AOG) is the most well-known violent anti-abortion extremist movement in the United States. It advocates violence to combat legal abortions. The AOG was originally formed in October 1988 by a group of anti-abortion extremists who were jailed together after protesting at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. However, it claims its first action as early as 1982 when two violent anti-abortion extremists, who later joined the AOG, kidnapped an Illinois abortion provider and his wife.

The AOG perpetuates the belief that violent anti-abortion extremists literally represent soldiers fighting in God‟s army and that a divine power is at the helm of their cause. “The Army of God is a real Army, and God is the General and Commander-in-Chief,” the AOG says on its website. The AOG‟s manual further states, “The soldiers, however, do not usually communicate with one another. Very few have ever met each other. And when they do, each is usually unaware of the other‟s soldier status.” The AOG manual also uses scripture to bolster biblical justification for their actions. It states, “The covert activist must always remember that he or she is part of a special group most often referred to in scripture as the "remnant."

The AOG also utilizes religious symbolism in its name and logo. The AOG name compares its adherents to soldiers in a battle against Satan. They are fighting a war with Jesus Christ at their side in an effort to save the unborn. The AOG logo includes a white cross (e.g. symbolizing the crucifixion of Christ and his resurrection), and has a soldier‟s helmet hanging off the cross with a bomb featuring a lit fuse inside a box. The words “The Army of God” are inscribed over and below the cross and bomb.

A lack of hierarchy and command structure inherently prevents AOG from establishing an identifiable figurehead, but key ideologues within the anti-abortion extremist movement exist and strongly influence violent actions others take on behalf of the anti-abortion cause. One of the main individuals organizing and spreading the violent anti-abortion extremist cause is convicted abortion arsonist and Chaplain Michael Bray. Bray gained notoriety from creating an AOG-affiliated ministry in Bowie, Maryland called “Defenders of the Defenders of Life.” Bray publishes anti-abortion extremist propaganda, including a 1994 book titled A Time to Kill that morally justifies violence to prevent and end abortions. He also sponsors an annual anti-abortion extremist gathering called the “White Rose Banquet.” It honors individuals who have committed violent acts against abortion providers and raises money for families of AOG members who are incarcerated.

Another prominent anti-abortion extremist ideologue is “Reverend” Donald Spitz. Spitz is the director of Pro-Life Virginia and also runs an AOG website. He is an associate of numerous AOG members and supporters and operated a website on behalf of convicted anti-abortion extremist Clayton Lee Waagner while he was a fugitive from federal authorities. Through his varied AOG contacts, Spitz is a staunch and prolific AOG advocate, inspiring others to commit criminal acts.

The Christian Gallery

Violent anti-abortion extremists maintain a myriad of websites that promote extreme political and religious stances, some even encouraging violent behavior. One of the most notorious anti-abortion websites is Christian Gallery formerly run by AOG supporter Neal Horsley (now deceased) of Carrollton, Georgia. As an occasional spokesperson and ideologue for anti-abortion extremism, Horsley advocated “waging war” against abortionists on his website. In the late 1990s, Horsley included a section on his site called “The Nuremberg Files” which provided detailed personal information (i.e. names, addresses) of abortion doctors in the United States as a targeting list. Whenever an abortion doctor was maimed or murdered, a black “X” was marked across the name. The Nuremberg Files was eventually shut down by a court order, but Horsley‟s Christian Gallery website full of AOG ideology remains.

Daryl Johnson is the owner of DT Analytics, a private consulting firm for law enforcement. Johnson is the former lead analyst for domestic terrorism at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Johnson has over 25 years experience working as a counter-terrorism analyst for the U.S. government. He is the author of Rightwing Resurgence: How A Domestic Terrorist Threat Is Being Ignored (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012).

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