Army of God Marches Toward Gays

While most U.S. human rights organizations vigorously condemned Saudi Arabia's New Year’s Day beheading of 3 homosexuals, members of the Army of God celebrated the event. The Army of God is not just any bunch of anti-abortion malcontents. These folks are the real deal; true believers not opposed to the use of violence and closely connected to an anti-abortion terrorist underground.

Now, the Army of God is including gays and lesbians within its ever-widening orbit of hate.

Christian Right groups have long targeted gays -- merging their anti-abortion politics with homophobia. Anti-abortion terrorists have included gays and lesbians in their violent actions. Eric Robert Rudolph -- on the run for more than five years since placing a bomb in Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympic Games -- has also been accused of the double bombing at the Otherside Lounge (a gay and lesbian bar) in Atlanta on February 21, 1997.

Rudolph disappeared into the wilds of North Carolina and landed a prominent spot on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. After the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Rudolph was joined by another anti-abortion terrorist, Clayton Lee Waagner -- who, while on the run from law enforcement, claims to have sent hundreds of anthrax threats to health clinics across the country. (For more on the hunt for Rudolph, see "Eric Whodolph: Is the media uncomfortable covering the Atlanta bombing story?")

In a mid-February story on Salon.com, veteran journalist Fred Clarkson noted that it was strange that the Army of God would choose the post-September 11 period to express "new solidarity with Muslim extremists just as the right-wing extremists have come under new scrutiny by the U.S. government for their own links to terror." The violence-prone Army of God," Clarkson writes, "drew intensified federal attention thanks to its praise ('great idea!') for the anthrax scare at 550 clinics and abortion rights organizations last fall, perpetrated by self-described antiabortion 'terrorist' Clayton Waagner.[who] signed his threats 'Army of God.'"

Waagner, a personal favorite and poster boy for the Army of God, had escaped from prison while awaiting sentencing for a December 2000 conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a stolen vehicle. He was arrested in early December after being on the run for nearly 10 months, during which time he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. In addition to taking responsibility for the anthrax threats, Waagner also claimed to have created a hit list of 42 abortion workers that he intended to kill.

On Friday, January 25, in an Urbana, Illinois courtroom, Clayton Lee Waagner was sentenced to 30 years and four months for weapons, theft and escape convictions. (For more on Waagner's "hit list," see "Unfinished business: What happened to Clayton Lee Waagner's abortion-worker hit list?")

Spewing anti-gay sentiments is nothing new for the Army of God. According to a February 24, 1997 Reuters report, the Army of God "threatened total war against the federal government and promised to attack gays, lesbians, their organizations and supporters in the future."

In a March 2001 article, Clarkson, commenting on HBO's documentary "Soldiers in the Army of God," writes: "At once shocking, compelling and beautifully made, the film is essentially the national television debut for the aboveground spokesmen and spokeswomen of the Army of God. [It] follows the mentoring relationship of long haul trucker and Army of God recruiter Bob Lokey, of Opp, Alabama, and 19-year-old Jonathan O'Toole of Kansas City, Mo., who says he is seeking the most 'radical' and 'terroristic' anti-abortion group he can find."

The film depicts O'Toole meeting with Army of God members at home, on the Internet, and "traveling in their cars and trucks, watching news reports of clinic violence on TV, participating in clinic demonstrations, discussing women and God, socializing and displaying their new flag at a Memorial Day picnic last year." O'Toole hooks up with Neil Horsley, creator of the infamous Nuremberg Files Web site and works as an "apprentice" to him.

"Horsley explains the role of the Nuremberg Files and the threat of violence, even civil war, as a means of political extortion. 'If the American people woke up,' [Horsley] explains to an enthusiastic Lokey and O'Toole, 'and realized that they had to choose between legalized abortion, legalized homosexuality and legalized all the rest of the desecration or civil war which would cause the rivers to run red with blood -- hey, you know we will see legalized abortion go like that! We'll see legalized homosexuality go like that! Because the American people,' he concludes, 'are not willing to die for homosexuals.'"

Openly cheering the beheading of gays in Saudi Arabia, however, takes the group's rhetoric to an even more abhorrent level.

Clarkson reports that the Army of God's web master and spokesman, Rev. Donald Spitz, had added "two special sections" to the group's Web site. There are links to many news stories with headlines such as "Saudi Arabia chop the heads off three homos"; "Homosexual fag Elton John says he is lucky not to have AIDS"; "Presbyterians Wrestle Over Ban on Homo Clergy"; "American Red Cross to give 9/11 funds to sodomites"; "Homo fag TV channel will soon be broadcasting their filthy crimes against humanity"; and "Massachusetts Governor picks sex perverted sodomite as running mate."

Spitz is also discouraging supporters from donating money to the United Way, a group, he argues, that "gives money to family planning organizations and abortion providers like Planned Parenthood but 'refuses money to the Boy Scouts because the Boy Scouts will not let child molesting homosexual sex perverts become Scout Masters and take your children out to the woods to molest them.'"

The Rev. Michael Bray, Army of God "chaplain," author of "A Time to Kill" and co-host of the anti-abortion terrorist-supporting White Rose Banquet, appears downright buoyed by the Saudi Arabia executions. "While the Christians among us westerners would decline to emulate our Muslim friends in many ways," he points out, "we can appreciate the justice they advocate regarding sodomy."

"Might these fellows also consider an embryonic jihad? Let us welcome these tools of purification. Open the borders! Bring in some agents of cleansing. In the meantime," he concludes, "let us pray for justice: that the heads of adulterers, sodomites, murderers, child murderers (abortionists), witches, traitors, and kidnappers roll."

In early February, England's online Birmingham.co.uk reported that an organization calling itself the Army of God branded staff at George Green & Co "legitimate targets" in a letter sent to the Sunday Mercury. George Green & Co, based in the Black Country town of Cradley Heath, "have represented Birmingham's Calthorpe Clinic -- one of the leading providers of abortions in the Midlands."

According to the online news site, the Army of God letter said: "George Green Solicitors, Cradley Heath, are acting for baby killers. George Green staff are now legitimate targets." Enclosed in the letter was a newsletter citing the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, abortion clinic. The letter was "peppered with references to 'war."

(For more on the Army of God and related organizations, check out Fred Clarkson's book, "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy" -- Common Courage Press, 1997. To read the "The Army of God Manual," with a Forward by the Rev. Spitz, see its website.)

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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