Monday, June 08, 2009

Operation Rescue and Acts of Private Violence

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.


Anonymous said...

You know, there's a time for everything. i don't as a general rule agree with violence, but people hide great atrocities behind walls, and i think you're naive to believe that dialogue always helps with those in power. some of us just DO know better (although - politicians / businessmen generally do, but the money speaks LOUDER). using sex offenders in the church as an analogy to convince people to conform to your opinion on ANOTHER topic is a very unethical way of persuasion. here's to Parouzia. *clink* (look that up dear)

Mike said...


Contrary to your opening statement, you do, as a rule, agree with with violence, the rule being when politicians and business men don't follow your spoken will. I take it to mean that you condone the use of unofficial violence to get your way in a democratic society when the democratic process does not result in a fulfillment of your desires. That is generally what we call, "terrorism."

Now that is a very unethical way of persuasion. Here's to Timothy McVeigh.

Mike said...


This seems to reinforce the propositions of Rachel Maddow you address in your earlier post. Her program was advocating the use law enforcement to investigate people like Randall Terry, and his group, Operation Rescue, because she is suspicious of his real motives. She based much of her suspicions from the suggestive language of Randall Terry's speeches. Operation Rescue's hiring of a convicted felon with a history of supporting private violence is another, albeit stronger, piece of evidence, to justify an investigation and routine surveillance of his group so see if they are actively promoting private violence to achieve their political ends.