Religious Violence and Abortion: The Gideon Project

Synopsis

On Christmas Day in 1984 three abortion clinics in Pensacola, Florida, were bombed by four young people who later went to trial and were convicted and sentenced. The authors explore this moral drama as a case study of religiously motivated political action. (The perpetrators identified with Gideon, the Old Testament slayer of those who sacrificed firstborn infants to Baal.) Their analysis sheds light on the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement. Placing anti-abortion violence in the context of social movement theory, the authors conclude that persons who are predisposed toward such behavior are likely to be working-class males under age 35, socially isolated from countervailing attitudes. Religious fundamentalists, they warn, will continue to utilize violence in reaction to such subjects as pornography, homosexuality, sex education, equality for females, and prayer in public schools. For this book the authors conducted interviews with local activists on both sides of the abortion issue. Theyattended the Pensacola trial and interviewed local religious fundamentalists, personnel of clinics throughout the United States that have been subjected to arson or bombing, and, when possible, persons who have been tried and convicted of those offenses.