Brand New War for the Army of God?
Under Government Scrutiny for Their Ties to Antiabortion Anthrax Hoax
Letters, The Army’s Leaders Are Spouting New, Violent Rhetoric Against Gays.
February 19, 2002
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By Frederick Clarkson
"Let us give thanks," Army of God "chaplain" Rev.
Michael Bray proclaimed on the Army of God Web site, http://www.armyofgod.com/MikeBray1.html
after sword-wielding officials in Saudi Arabia beheaded three gay men New Year’s
Day. The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the men had "committed
acts of sodomy, married each other, seduced young men and attacked those who
Best known for its terror campaign against abortion providers, the militant
Army of God has lately displayed a virulent antigay animus in recent postings
on its Web site. The sudden trend has set off alarms among human rights
"This is really chilling," Surina Khan, executive director of the
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, told Salon. "It
really disturbs me, in terms of the rhetoric and what effect it has."
Ironically, the Army of God is expressing 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, post-Sept. 11. The
violence-prone Army of God 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. Waagner signed his threats
"Army of God."
Deputy U.S. Marshals in Ohio captured Waagner in December after 10 months
on the lam—during which he merrily robbed banks, bought weapons and
surveillance equipment, stole cars, and stalked clinics and clinic personnel.
Arresting officers found that he had $10,000 cash in his pocket and computer
components and a loaded handgun stashed in his stolen Mercedes-Benz. U.S.
Marshals arrested Waagner, an escaped federal fugitive, and turned up the heat
on the Army of God, which had supported his flight from justice, even allowing
him to post communiqués to the antiabortion community on its Web site. It
probably doesn’t help, in this age of vigilance against terror, that several
Army of God figures have repeatedly expressed approval for the use of chemical
and biological agents against abortion providers.
After years of complaining that federal officials weren’t taking threats
against them sufficiently seriously, abortion providers and advocates are
relatively happy with the way the federal government has responded to the
latest anthrax threats. Apparently feeling the heat of federal law enforcement
agencies, Rev. Michael Bray even canceled his annual White Rose Banquet,
usually a high-profile fundraiser and Army of God rally held near the nation’s
capital every January on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade
decision. Bray held a "private meeting" instead.
And yet, with its antiabortion threats coming in for more government
scrutiny, the Army of God has apparently decided to ratchet up its antigay
rhetoric. The antigay animus of the group’s Web master and spokesman, Rev.
Donald Spitz, has erupted into obsession in the two special sections of the
group’s Web site. One offers a selection of links to various news stories,
some from dubious sources. For example:
"Saudi Arabia chop the heads off three homos" [sic]
"Homosexual fag Elton John says he is lucky not to have AIDS"
"Presbyterians Wrestle Over Ban on Homo Clergy. If they have an
question about it, they are obviously apostate."
"American Red Cross to give 9/11 funds to sodomites" (about a
story on providing aid to 9/11 victims regardless of sexual orientation)
"Homo fag TV channel will soon be broadcasting their filthy crimes
against humanity" (on the prospect of an all-gay cable TV channel)
"Massachusetts Governor picks sex perverted sodomite as running
mate" (after Massachusetts Acting Governor Jane Swift picked an openly
gay man as her candidate for lieutenant governor)
Another section of Spitz’s site is devoted to explaining "why you
should never give money to the United Way." The reason? The United Way
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."
While Spitz has a sharp eye for potential antigay headlines, Michael Bray
has been more focused on the opportunity the Saudi gay beheadings may afford
to get some "discussion" going toward a more theocratic order in
"While the Christians among us westerners would decline to emulate our
Muslim friends in many ways ... " he notes, "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:
viz., that the heads of adulterers, sodomites, murderers, child murderers
(abortionists), witches, traitors, and kidnappers roll."
"I think this is a blatant call for people to murder gays and
lesbians, among others," Lorri L. Jean, executive director of the
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told Salon. "It’s the logical
extension of radical fundamentalism and religious intolerance."
"I think that any alliance they may be building with fundamentalist
Muslims is alarming," says Surina Kahn, of the International Gay and
Lesbian Human Rights Commission. "And this may be just the
While Bray has called for prayers of Thanksgiving for the Saudi executions,
Kahn’s group is publicizing Amnesty International’s blistering report on
the incident. The report denounces the vague charges, secret trials and
executions of the three men.
Bray’s cheering of the Saudi executions is striking in light of the usual
contempt for all things Islam expressed by the far Christian right. "One
has to appreciate the cosmic irony here," said Chip Berlet, senior
analyst at Political Research Associates in Somerville, Mass. "They can
side with a religion they don’t approve of against a scapegoat they both
loathe and demonize."
Berlet isn’t surprised by the Army of God’s antigay outbursts.
"Within the Christian Right, there is a distinction between the
reformists and those who want insurgency," he says. Revolutionary groups
like the Army of God, he says, see before them a "three-headed monster—of
liberalism, feminism (which includes abortion), and the gay and lesbian civil
rights movement. And the monster doesn’t die," he observes,
"unless you cut off all three."
Spitz’s headlines also echo the vitriol of Rev. Fred Phelps, an antigay
protester and provocateur best known for his Web site, God Hates Fags. Pastor
of the tiny Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., Phelps and his cult-like
entourage are notorious for picketing the funerals of AIDS victims. But Phelps’
group has recently picketed such unlikely targets as Weight Watchers
spokeswoman and former princess Sarah Ferguson ("fag enabling
whore"), and President George and Laura Bush ("demon possessed fag
But Phelps is not known for specifically encouraging bombings and
assassinations, while that has been the raison d’être of the Army of God.
So the Army’s sudden increase in antigay rhetoric worries hate-group
watchers. "We know that in the race-hate movement," Berlet
explained, "people who have been fed a steady diet of demonization based
on falsehoods have gone out and attacked people—people who have been
targeted by the rhetoric. So we know this happens."
The question is whether the escalation of the Army of God’s antigay
rhetoric signals a coming campaign of violence of the sort that has targeted
abortion providers, or a pernicious but nonviolent distraction for a group
whose harassment of abortion providers has suddenly come in for greater
federal scrutiny. But hate-group watchers say they’re monitoring the group
closely looking for an answer.
. About the writer: Frederick Clarkson has reported on the religious right
for 15 years. He is the author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle
Between Theocracy and Democracy" (Common Courage Press, 1997).
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