Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Invitation to Violence

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

An Invitation to Violence

Article excerpt

When Americans hear about fundamentalist zealotry in another culture than our own, we have no trouble recognizing the danger it presents.

The suicide car bomb, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie, the marchers in Bangladesh demanding the death of another writer, Taslima Nasrin: We shudder at such terror in the name of God.

But fanaticism in our midst we take less seriously. When a nicely dressed American preaches that absolute revealed truth justifies extremist action, most of us do not see the menace to civilized life.

Paul J. Hill, a fundamentalist former minister, made it amply clear that his absolutist reading of the Bible justified murder to prevent abortion. "Sometimes you have to use force to stop people from killing innocent children," he said on national television last year.

Last week, he evidently acted on his beliefs. He was charged with the murder of Dr. John B. Britton and a volunteer safety escort at a women's medical clinic in Pensacola, Fla. "I know one thing," Hill said when he was arrested. "No innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today."

Anti-abortion groups quickly tried to distance themselves from the killing. "The pro-life movement has no room for violence or vigilantism," said the Rev. Pat Mahoney, a leader of Operation Rescue. Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, a principal figure in Catholic activities against abortion, said the murder "makes a mockery of everything we stand for."

But when you tell your followers that abortion is murder, that doctors are baby killers, that America has an abortion Holocaust, you cannot so neatly disavow responsibility once someone takes you at your word. The hysterical rhetoric of the anti-abortion movement in this country is an invitation to violence.

And it is not only rhetoric. Operation Rescue and other groups have used physical obstruction and all kinds of harassment to terrify patients and doctors at clinics. They circulate the addresses and license numbers of doctors who perform abortions.

Opposition to abortion is a position that everyone should respect. Millions of people think abortion is wrong. …

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