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An Open Letter To Attorney General Eric Holder

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Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to thank you for ordering the Department of Justice to investigate other potential federal crimes in connection with the murder of Dr. George Tiller. As someone who in the early days of the so-called pro-life movement was partly responsible for turning up the rhetoric to fever pitch, and thus indirectly responsible (amongst many others) for the violence that is now part of that movement, I feel that you need to expand your scope of interest in this matter. Unlike members of al Qaeda, our religious extremists aren't part of a conspiracy. It's worse: they are hard-to-stop lone actors energized by right wing media-driven far right Christian religion. I know-- been there-done that. Mea culpa.

My radical far right books used to be given away as a fund raising fulfillment by Jams Dobson on his "Focus On The Family" program. My Dad and I inspired the founders of Operation Rescue into taking up the "cause." We began to describe the American government as the enemy because of our stand on abortion. Our old followers were the same sorts of people that recently stocked up on guns and ammo when Obama was elected because they were fearful that their guns would soon be taken away (as the NRA had threatened would happen in their anti-Obama pre-election mailings).

In the wake of the election of our first black president, we've seen a rising tide of right wing hate. An abortion doctor was gunned down; three police officers in Pittsburgh were shot by a man who feared "they" would take his guns; and a black security guard at the National Holocaust Museum was slain. Then the FBI recently arrested a well-known white supremacist and the host of an Internet talk show and Web site for saying that three judges should be killed -- also related to a matter related to regulating guns. Then on June 26, another story exploded: The gunning down of a father, mother and child by a self-appointed "border patrol" dedicated to keeping America "safe" from Mexican immigrants.

To get to the bottom of what amounts to a growing and violent trend, you need to investigate various religious subcultures. If it is appropriate to investigate religious groups -- as Bush did with Muslim charities accused of ties to extremists -- then it should be right and proper to investigate evangelical and other Christian groups too.

Where is the extremism coming form? Well, a website maintained by Holocaust Museum alleged killer Brunn says that Brunn tried to carry out a "citizen's arrest" in 1981 on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors who he accused of "treason." He was arrested outside the room where the board was meeting carrying a sawed-off shotgun, a revolver and a knife. Police said he planned to take members of the Fed hostage. I'd first heard such ideas on the far evangelical right.

Some "mainstream" religious right leaders have been saying much the same thing as Brunn about the Fed (and race too) for years, particularly the so-called "dominionists" who believe it's their job to reestablish God's dominion on earth. They preach Old Tenement-style vengeance and "gold standard" economics from many evangelical pulpits. They hate America -- America as it is rather than America as they wish it to be -- and want a revolution in the name of God, "pro-life" beliefs, anti-gay laws, racism and far right Republican politics. They take the Republican anti-government propaganda to the next step and say that even paying any taxes is "unconstitutional."

I know them well. As I explain in my book Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, the religious right has been awash in extreme people for the better part of 40 years. For instance I knew people like the late Reverend Rousas John Rushdoony the father of "Christian Reconstructionism" and the modern Christian home school movement and his dominionist group.

Rushdoony (who I met and talked with many times before I quit the religious right in the mid '80s) believed that interracial marriage, which he referred to as "unequal yoking," should be made illegal. He also opposed "enforced integration," referred to Southern slavery as "benevolent," and said that "some people are by nature slaves." And yet his home school materials are a mainstay of the evangelical home school movement to this day! In other words in thousands of evangelical homes children are being taught in what amount to American versions of Madrassas.

Rushdoony's 1973 opus, The Institutes of Biblical Law, says that fundamentalist Christians must "take control of governments and impose strict biblical law" on America and the world. That would mean the death penalty for "practicing homosexuals." Rushdoony was also a Holocaust denier, attacking the "false witness" that some 6 million Jews were murdered in World War II.

Many evangelical leaders publicly deny holding Reconstructionist beliefs but Beverly and Tim LaHaye (of Concerned Women for America), Donald Wildmon (American Family Association) and the late D. James Kennedy ( Coral Ridge Ministries) -- served alongside Rushdoony on the secretive Coalition for Revival, a group formed in 1981 to "reclaim America for Christ." I went to the early meetings. I first met Tim LaHaye at one such meeting. And these political views meld with an apocalyptic "End Times" cult that actually looks forward to Armageddon and hopes chaos and civil unrest will overtake us so that Christ will return all the sooner!

As I said our very own extremists aren't from any one group. They are drawn from thousands of unstable individuals driven to extremes by people like Rushdoony, Limbaugh, the evangelical dominionists, Fox News, the NRA, Operation Rewscue and James Dobson.

The more successful our progressive President becomes with the majority of sane Americans the more extreme his far right critics -- including the "pro-life" movement -- are going to become. So I hope you and the FBI are investigating pro-life evangelical groups and their leaders, infiltrating pro-life outfits like Operation Rescue, and others from who's ranks more extremists will come to strike at the heart of our open society.

My late evangelical-leader father -- Francis Schaeffer -- wrote a best-selling book called A Christian Manifesto. He equated legal abortion to the Holocaust. He talked about the "fact" that if having exhausted all political and democratic means to change the laws on abortion Christians should turn to force here in America. He compared America to Hitler's Germany.

So it strikes me as ominous that there are some far right evangelicals (amongst others) talking about President Obama being the "next Hitler" because he supports legal abortion is said to be a "socialist" and so forth. (Check out many nutty and scary web postings flying around.) Given what my Dad wrote justifying force when "other options" run out, and given his massive following to this day in the far right evangelical subculture, and given the fact that the Religious Right now believes that options have indeed run out -- not just for changing the abortion laws but for everything from "returning to free market" ideology to turning back the clock on gay rights -- I see trouble looming.

And it isn't just the right wing crazies taking about Hitler's Germany and the Obama era. Consider this from the Washington Independent (July 9, 09)

Last night, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) gave a short talk and Q&A at at the National Press Club about his book "Saving Freedom." DeMint told a room of around 100 people about a conversation he'd had with an Iranian immigrant who was panicking about the surge of government spending and control under President Obama and the Democrats. Americans should listen to immigrants like her, said DeMint.

"They understand socialism. They understand tyrants. But none of us have ever had it here. We don't even know what it looks like. Part of what we're trying to do in "Saving Freedom" is just show that where we are, we're about where Germany was before World War II where they became a social democracy. You still had votes but the votes were just power grabs like you see in Iran, and other places in South America, like Chavez is running down in Venezuela. People become more dependent on the government so that they're easy to manipulate. And they keep voting for more government because that's where their security is. When our immigrants get here, they're worried, because they see it happening here. "

How far is the right -- including some "respectable media leaders" going toward endorsing possible extremism? Consider this.

Glenn Beck recently had the former head of the CIA's Bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer, as a guest. Scheuer said we can only be saved from President Obama by Bin Laden!

BECK: "Do you really, honestly believe that we have come to a place to where those very senior people in the highest offices of the land, Congress and the White House, really will not do the right thing in the end, that they won't see the error of their ways?"

SCHEUER: "No, sir, they will not. Not -- the only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon i n the United States. Because it's going to take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. Only -- it's an absurd situation. Again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently, and with as much violence as necessary."

We've hit bottom. I urge you to expand your investigation into the connection between this sort of extreme anti-American speech, implicitly condoned by Fox News --Beck never challenged this outrageous statement! -- that seems to imply support for not just domestic but also international violence in an "Obama-must-fail" cause. I urge you to investigate the connections between Operation Rescue and other pro-life groups and the extremists that sometimes pass through those groups on their ways to desperate and hateful acts. Liberals have use the sometimes constitutionally-suspect means that were used against the Left (when the the Right thought the Left was conspiring to overthrow the government) against the actually far more dangerous far Right.

America has a right wing violence problem exploding in our faces. It is time to take it seriously before far worse befalls us.

Frank Schaeffer is the author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and the forthcoming Patience With God: Faith For People Who Don't Like Religion (Or Atheism)