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the Body Politic
Vol. 09, No. ma - Mar/Apr 1999, Page 15
Copyright © 1999 by the Body Politic Inc.

Operation Rescue Reunites in Buffalo With Operation Save America

By Valerie Finkelman

After the brutal assassination of Dr. Barnett Slepian in October, 1998, Operation Rescue has decided to stage a "reunion" in Buffalo and Rochester, New York April 18th through the 25th. Called Operation Save America, OR Executive Director, Flip Benham, says the purpose is, "to bring the powerful theology of the Church of Jesus Christ and enable it to become biography in the street. We believe that Jesus Christ is the only hope for America to be saved from herself and the enemy of her posterity. Abortion will not be the sole focus of OSA, but rather a spiritual-based effort designed to confront the ills of America - abortion, pornography, school violence and teen sex."

In addition to the picketing of clinics and doctor's residences in the Buffalo, Batavia and Rochester area, OR plans to stage a presence at Barnes & Noble and Border's book stores, take their big signs and pamphlets to area high schools, and at least one morning will be spent at the State University of New York campus in Buffalo. Pastor Bob Behn of Last Call Ministries, OR's Buffalo contact and organizer, has stated that SUNY-B's Professor Paul Kurtz's writings have made it the seat of secular humanism in America, and he feels not enough other Americans are aware of this fact.

Editor's Note:. The Institute for Secular Humanism is located in Amherst, a Buffalo suburb, along with the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Paranormal.

Invitations to OSA have been issued to all activists who were involved in Operation Rescue's 1992 Spring of Life protest which attracted as many as 1,000 outside protestors and led to 625 arrests. Organizers expect this year's event to be somewhat smaller, with fewer arrests and probably attracting 200 to 600 people. Pastor Behn would not rule out any attempts to close down or blockade a clinic saying "there's a possibility if I felt that's what God wanted me to do, but at this point, He hasn't asked me to do that. I would prayerfully support anyone who felt led to do that."

Joe Slovenec and Media, Buffalo 1992
Photo of Joe Slovenec and reporter

Twin Reverend's Robert and Paul Schenck figured prominently in 1992's event. However, Robert Schenck issued a statement on January 24th calling for a new approach to the anti-abortion movement after the fatal shooting of Buffalo's Dr. Barnett Slepian, and cautioned against a return to clinic protests such as the massive event in 1992 that he helped to organize. Schenck said he regretted his participation in the announcement of this years Spring of Life Reunion with Pastor Behn, and did not plan to participate in any of the activities.

On January 20th, Benham staged a press con-ference in Buffalo to counter the appearance of President Bill Clinton. Attending the briefing with Benham were Father Paul Weslin, leader of the Lambs of Christ, and Joe Scheidler of Chicago's Pro-Life Action League and author of Closed-99 Ways to Stop Abortion. Benham's press release stated, "As we prepare to go to Buffalo and Rochester, we see the very clear evidence of God's hand directing our steps. Buffalo has become the flash point in the abortion war - the epicenter of a cultural war that is ripping our once great nation apart. God is calling us to war - He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."

Father Weslin is believed to be living in Buffalo at the present time. He staged a blockade of Planned Parenthood in Rochester in 1996 and spent time in jail for his efforts. There is speculation whether one of Central New York's staunchest abortion opponents, John Arena, will make an appearance in Buffalo. Arena was released from prison in August of 1998 after spending three years behind bars for masterminding butyric acid attacks at two Syracuse-area medical offices in 1994. Many national anti-abortion protestors live within a 300 mile radius of Buffalo so the potential is there for quite an "old home week."

Since OR's Operation Save America is also being touted as Operation Rescue Youth, and youth rallies are planned each day, it is unknown as of this report how much time will be devoted to clinic protests.

Buffalo pro-choice leaders fear the outbreak of violence, in a city that is still reeling from the October assassination of Dr. Slepian. Glenn E. Murray attorney for the Pro-Choice Network fears the event will attract vigilantes who preach the justif-ication of violence no matter how peaceful the official agenda seems.

Pastor Bob Behn has said everyone coming to Buffalo will be asked to honor a non-violence pledge. In a wonderful piece of reverse logic Pastor Behn said, "If the pro-choice crowd didn't show up at our events, there would be no violence and no arrests, guaranteed." Karen Swallow Prior, former New York State OR organizer thinks the media and the abortion rights activists hold the key to any problems associated with the demonstration. "If the participants in Operation Save America are not confronted by their opponents or given undue attention by the media, I see no reason for it to turn ugly." In other word, "The media made me do it."

How convenient to already have your excuse ready for whatever might happen.

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