Christian activist Randall Terry has reappeared in the news in recent days as the spokesman for the parents of Terri Schiavo. Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and the Society for Truth and Justice, appeared on Fox News at least four times in the past four days -- on the March 18 edition of Hannity & Colmes, and during live coverage of the Schiavo case on March 20 and March 21. But Terry has a controversial past that was not fully disclosed in any of his Fox News appearances or on the March 19 edition of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, which aired a brief clip from Terry. In all but one of those instances, Terry was identified only as the Schindler family spokesman.
Only when Terry appeared on a March 21 “Fox News Alert” did another guest -- Fox News contributor and Democratic strategist Susan Estrich -- point out that Terry was “involved in the anti-abortion movement” and with Operation Rescue, which “operated outside the law.”
On his own website, Terry noted that he “has been arrested over forty times for peaceful opposition to abortion,” but he neglected to mention the details of his anti-abortion activities with Operation Rescue in the 1980s and 1990s. In an April 22, 2004, Washington Post article, staff writer Michael Powell summarized some of Terry's anti-abortion actions:
In 1988, Terry and his legions started standing in front of local abortion clinics, screaming and pleading with pregnant women to turn away. They tossed their bodies against car doors to keep abortion patients from getting out. They waved crucifixes and screamed “Mommy, Mommy” at the women. When Terry commanded, hundreds went jellyfish-limp and blockaded the “death clinics.”
In 1989, a “Holy Week of Rescue” shut down a family planning clinic in Los Angeles. More than 40,000 people were arrested in these demonstrations over four years. Subtlety wasn't Terry's thing -- he described Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a “whore” and an “adulteress” and arranged to have a dead fetus presented to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.
Additional evidence suggests that actions by Terry and Operation Rescue may have provoked violence at abortion clinics. As the New York Times reported on July 20, 2001, “One of his [Terry's] most avid followers in Binghamton was James E. [sic: C.] Kopp, now charged in the 1998 murder of a doctor who performed abortions in Buffalo [New York].” Kopp was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. A November 6, 1998, Times report further detailed Terry's connection to Kopp:
In July 1988, when Randall Terry drove through the night from his home in Binghamton, N.Y., to Atlanta to start the series of anti-abortion protests that would finally put his new hard-line group, Operation Rescue, onto America's front pages, James Charles Kopp was in the van riding alongside him, said former leaders of Operation Rescue.
And when Mr. Terry was arrested on the first day of Operation Rescue's “Siege of Atlanta,” Mr. Kopp followed him into jail, said the leaders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Along with more than 100 other Operation Rescue members, according to some people who were there, Mr. Kopp remained in jail for 40 days and adhered to Mr. Terry's orders not to give a real name to the police or courts.
After his release, Mr. Kopp returned to Operation Rescue's Binghamton headquarters, and was there working alongside Mr. Terry as the group's power and influence in the anti-abortion movement surged in late 1988 and 1989, according to the former leaders of Operation Rescue.
Further, the Miami Herald reported on March 20 that Operation Rescue's “sympathizers continue to make an impact, some serving for the Bush administration.”
As CNN noted on March 4, 1998, Terry was named in a lawsuit -- seeking to “force anti-abortion leaders to pay for damages caused in clinic attacks” -- which was filed by the National Organization for Women (NOW) under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, and Terry settled with NOW out of court. The New York Times reported on November 8, 1998, that Terry “filed for bankruptcy last week in an effort to avoid paying massive debts owed to women's groups and abortion clinics that have sued him.” As the Los Angeles Times reported on February 28, Terry's use of bankruptcy law to avoid paying for the judgments against him helped prompt Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) to propose an amendment to the bankruptcy bill recently passed by Congress that “specifically would prevent abortion opponents from using the bankruptcy code to escape paying court fines,” although it was not included in the final version of the bill. Versions of that amendment appeared in earlier versions of the bankruptcy bill, which stalled action on it in 2002 and 2003 when “a core of House Republicans balked” at the provision, the Los Angeles Times noted.
According to a June 14, 2003, report by the conservative World Magazine (no longer available online, but reprinted on the right-wing bulletin board Free Republic), Terry solicited donations by declaring on his website that “The purveyors of abortion on demand have stripped Randall Terry of everything he owned,” but failed to disclose that the money would be used to pay for his new $432,000 house. The report noted Terry's defense: “Terry told World that he wanted a home where his family will be safe and where 'we could entertain people of stature, people of importance. I have a lot of important people that come through my home. And I will have more important people come through my home.' ” World noted that the same month he paid the deposit on his new home, a court ruled that Terry, who divorced his first wife and has remarried, “was not paying a fair share of child support.” In an article on his website, Terry denounced the World report as “journalistic trash, a 'hit piece' of malice and misinformation.”
Terry's words and personal life have also stirred controversy. As the Fort Wayne (Indiana) News Sentinel reported on August 16, 1993, at an anti-abortion rally in Fort Wayne, Terry said “Our goal is a Christian nation. ... We have a biblical duty, we are called by God to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism. ... Theocracy means God rules. I've got a hot flash. God rules.” In that same speech, Terry also stated that “If a Christian voted for [former President Bill] Clinton, he sinned against God. It's that simple.” According to a March 18, 2004, press release, Terry declared on his radio program that “Islam dictates followers use killing and terror to convert Western infidels.” As The Washington Post reported on February 12, 2000, in his 1995 book The Judgment of God Terry wrote that “homosexuals and lesbians are no longer content to secretly live in sin, but now want to glorify their perversions.” In a May 25, 2004, interview about his gay son with The Advocate, Terry stated that homosexuality is a “sexual addiction” that shouldn't be rewarded with “special civil rights.”
According to the February 12, 2000, Washington Post report, Terry was censured by his church, the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York, for a “pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women.” Terry denies the accusation.