18 their objective, not all of them necessarily take steps to avoid detection or capture. “Many of the perpetrators of violence were not very sophisticated and didn’t pay close attention to the technical aspects of carrying out their violence. Nevertheless they certainly were determined and committed to a thorough approach of trial and error. They also were willing to share what they learned with others. Although Paul Hill may not have been sophisticated about planning his escape, he was ruthlessly efficient in carrying out the murder of Dr. Britton and his escort [James H. Barrett],” Thomas observes. Likewise, the July 1999 killing spree of WCOTC follower Benjamin Nathanial Smith was carried out in broad daylight and only ended with Smith’s suicide as law enforcement agents were closing in. And Buford Furrow’s attack on a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center and murder of a Filipino-American postal worker the following month was not carried out with the objective of escaping—in fact, Furrow turned himself in to the FBI immediately afterwards. These kinds of highly visible, public attacks are much less common than the clandestine violence, as most activists seek to avoid detection and capture in order to avoid punishment and remain free to engage in further violence. When discussing the operational nature of specific groups, experts sometimes disagree as to whether an entity such as the Army of God actually exists or merely functions as a propaganda vehicle. As reported by the National Abortion Federation: “The first public mention of the Army of God (AOG) is believed to have been when Don Benny Anderson used the AOG name in 1982 when he and Matthew and Wayne Moore kidnapped an Illinois abortion provider and his wife. The couple was later released unharmed and the trio were apprehended and convicted. Benny Anderson and the Moore brothers were also responsible for abortion clinic arsons.”53 “The AOG is definitely more than just a concept or commonly held idea,” says Moore. Highlighting the similarities between the AOG manual and the manual developed by Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, Moore said that “they are virtually the same.” Then again, there is no evidence that anti-abortion activists such as Clayton Waagner and Eric Robert Rudolph, who both sent letters claiming responsibility for their attacks in the name of the AOG, had any functional relationship with the group.
“The Army of God is not a real entity,” maintains Blanchard. “But it is useful for law enforcement authorities to pronounce it as a real entity because it enables them to crack down. It also is useful for some in the anti-abortion movement to declare it is a real entity because it conveys the idea that the AOG is perhaps more of a threat to abortion providers or better organized than they really are.” In the 2001 HBO documentary Soldiers in the Army of God, prominent anti-abortion activists publicly declare the existence of the group and their affiliation with it, while others characterize the entity in less concrete terms. A similar distinction was noted by experts on the Christian Identity movement with regard to the Phinehas Priesthood, though all generally agree that the Priesthood is not—and never has been—a real organization. Although assorted Priesthood paraphernalia, including copies of books written by Priesthood promoter Richard Kelley Hoskins, have been found among the belongings of violent activists, there is no real evidence of an organized group by that name. This distinction is sometimes not readily apparent to outside observers, especially when activists themselves assert the existence of the group. For example, on October 8, 1996, three self-described "Phinehas Priests" were charged in connection with two bank robberies and a spate of bombings targeting two banks, a newspaper, and a Planned Parenthood office in Spokane, Washington. All three men (Charles Barbee, Robert Berry, and Jay Merrell) were eventually convicted and sentenced to life terms. Notes left at the crime scenes, and subsequent threat letters, referenced the Priesthood. Although more commonly thought of in connection with the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement, the Priesthood also has been embraced by the anti-abortion movement. Paul Hill and other proponents of the doctrine of “justifiable homicide” have cited the Phinehas story to justify their actions and Jubilee, a Christian Identity publication, has referred to Hill as a “Phinehas priest.” Blanchard also cites a convergence between the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement and militiarelated groups. “The anti-abortion movement has learned a great deal from these people,” according to Blanchard, who cites the technique of filing so-called “common law” liens, which were first perfected in the 1980s by the Posse Comitatus and the tax protest movement to target IRS agents, judges, and others and now are used against pro-choice activists.54
See “ANTI-ABORTION EXTREMISTS/The Army Of God and Justifiable Homicide,” found at http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/violence/army_god.html.
See Clarkson, “Anti-Abortion Extremists.”
Published on Jul 23, 2010
Published on Jul 23, 2010