Listen, abortion law is long-settled law. And, anyone out on street corners with car-sized photographs of mutilated fetuses, waving Bibles and wearing derogatory T-shirts is, well, creepy.
Can we move on now? No, apparently we can't.
Take the Rev. Philip "Flip" Benham for example. He's the director of the Concord-based anti-abortion rights group called Operation Save America. I met him around this time last year at an Organizing for America health care reform rally on N. Tryon Street, in front of the Teamster's gathering spot.
Mind you, the majority of the "protesters" on that street corner were advocating for health care reform. But Benham, and his crew of four or five white men out-shouted them thanks to the microphone they brought, which they used to declare things like, "Don't come in here, there's hate in here!"
Benham, in a side conversation, told me he felt judged and said the people who want health care reform are washed up hippies. He also said things like, "Look who's ruling in Washington D.C.; the inmates are running the asylum."
Before leaving, I noticed the T-shirts his followers were wearing, which reveal more about the group's belief system. (See below photo.) The back of the shirts read, "Abortion is wrong. Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Evolution is delusion. Feminism is rebellion. Liberalism is a false religion. Conservatism is pretend salt."
I'm bringing this up to you now because, yesterday, Benham was sentenced to three years probation for stalking local doctors, as reported by the Charlotte Observer. You see, he and his cronies have been distributing "wanted" fliers with the doctor's photos and personal contact information on them. The reverend, of course, says he'll appeal.
Another local minister, Rusty Lee Thomas, posted a response to the verdict on Operation Save America's website saying, in part:
In "doctor" Flood's mind a flyer that exposes his hidden works of darkness and calls for him to repent and receive the love and freedom of Christ is equivalent to a gun or a bomb. With great eloquence, he shared the heart wrenching tale of how he searches roof tops for snipers, checks his cars for bombs, and can no longer watch sport games downstairs in the comfort of his home. The only thing missing from his testimony was popcorn and a tissue. He should have received an Oscar or a Nobel peace prize for his performance on the stand.
Keep in mind, other abortion doctors have been picked off in their own homes, their cars have exploded. But, according to this group, they have nothing to fear ... and if they do appear frightened, they're just acting.
Now, isn't this the same type of behavior that led to several murders across the country, as demonstrated in the recent documentary, "The Assassination of Dr. Tiller," which you can watch here. Tiller, of course, was the abortion doctor in Kansas who was gunned down in his church while participating in the service as an usher.
What the documentary helps explain is that groups like Benham's rile people up who then take the law into their own hands and abuse, torment and murder people they disagree with. The groups that incite the violence applaud the criminals' actions while backing away from their role as accomplices.
What do you think? Should Benham be allowed to distribute his fliers? Do you see a direct connection between groups like Operation Save America's propaganda and those who murder abortion doctors?
Before you answer, check out this video interview, on the Rachel Maddow Show, with one of the doctors whose face ended up on Benham's "wanted" posters.
I think there is a direct connection between this type of hate-filled rhetoric and the murder of abortion doctors, and I think it's wrong. I also think it's wrong to plaster Jesus' face on your hate.
Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.