In the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, it came to light that the Senior Policy Advisor for Operation Rescue was Cheryl Sullenger, who was convicted of conspiring to bomb a California abortion clinic in 1988.
Though this fact came to light in the wake of Dr. Tiller's murder, it is a fact that deserves condemnation independent of the murder.
Specifically, for an organization such as Operation Rescue to give a position of authority (or even to hire) somebody who has a history of private violence for political ends is morally much like a school (or a church) hiring somebody with a history of sexual offenses against children to run a child care facility.
I have argued before that people generally have many and strong reason to promote an aversion to the use of violence to make a political statement in an open society where other forms of participation are available. It has good reason to condemn people such as Cheryl Sullenger for promoting an agenda that threatens all of us.
A widespread acceptance of the Sullenger ethic, where there is little or no aversion to private violence in the pursuit of political ends, is the type of mentality that creates places like Baghdad, Pakistan, Lebanon, India, and (until recently), northern Ireland. It is an attitude that, if not condemned (and thereby contained), but instead allowed to grow, turns a civil society into violent anarchy.
Yet, Operation Rescue, in hiring Cheryl Sullenger and giving her a position of policy advisor suggests that Operation Rescue itself considers actions such as the bombing of an abortion clinic to be legitimate policy. It further suggests that Operation Rescue is comfortable with undermining society's interests in promoting an aversion to violence as a form of political expression.
This makes Operation Rescue deserving of at least as much condemnation as Cheryl Sullenger deserved, and Sullenger's condemnation took the form of two years in prison.
Her history tells us that she might well be sympathetic to Roeder's alleged plans to murder Dr. Tiller.
If we continue the analogy above, we may assume that there might be some problem in hiring a convicted sex offender as a vice principal of a school, whose duties would include the monitoring of other teachers to protect the well-being of the children. Such a vice-principle might be more tempted to join or at least aid a teacher planning offenses against children rather then do his duty to protect the children from such a teacher.
Similarly, Sullenger's record tells us that she has little or no interest in protecting the people of this country from the private violence of people such as herself. This means she was (and ought to have been judged so by the leaders of Operation Rescue) to be unlikely to act to protect people from the violent acts of the liikes of Mr. Roeder.
At best, the decision on the part of the leadership of Operation Rescue to put Ms. Sullenger in a leadership position shows negligence on a scale that we find in the Catholic Church, which regularly put people with a history of sex offenses against children in charge of children.
At worst, we have reason to ask about the degree to which the leadership of Operation Rescue actually took an active role in encouraging, or even particupating in, the murder of Dr. Tiller.