The Prime Minister (equivalent to a U.S. governor) of the German state of Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow of the Left Party, made the following statement on a television program about Islamist violence:
“In America there are self-appointed evangelicals who are of the opinion that they can attack … abortion clinics and kill people.”
This was a surprising and frivolous comment in the middle of a serious discussion of Islamist terrorism. But more importantly, where did he get this idea? Who are these “self-appointed evangelicals” who believe in murder? A closer look reveals that Ramelow is repeating a false charge against Christians that must be laid to rest.
I published a comprehensive report on this issue in 2009 for the World Evangelical Alliance (available on the Internet in both English and German) because reputable evangelical pastors and leaders would want to know if there were potential murderers in their midst. Comments such as Ramelow’s have caused me to update my research. I maintain the point that I made in 2009: there is not a single case in which a practicing evangelical has been accused of killing an abortion advocate. Rather, people who have a personal interest in discrediting the Christian church are repeating a myth without doing their homework.
In the last 18 years, there have been two fatal attacks on abortion clinics, in 2009 and 2015. Although every murder is terrible, this is hardly a pattern worthy of comparison to Islamic terrorism.
Going back further, we find that in the last 40 years, from 1977 to 2016 there have been 11 murders in abortion clinics or of abortion doctors in North America, for an average of slightly more than one murder every four years. Since 1995, there have been six fatalities, three of them in a single attack in 2015. The most frequent cause is mental instability, followed by membership in white supremacy groups. Christian churches or believers have played no role.
For my 2009 report, I examined publications of the National Abortion Federation, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF). These publications describe all attacks on abortion clinics, as well as the backgrounds of the offenders. As you might guess, these groups are nor particularly fond of pro-life Christians. Nevertheless, they report honestly that evangelical pro-life groups have sharply distanced themselves from violent crime.
These major pro-abortion organizations have never claimed that evangelicals are shooting abortionists. I checked their 2016 reports, which do not hold evangelical Christians responsible for any criminal act.
Moreover, although there were earlier instances of violence in Canada and Australia, since 2009 the handful of attacks on abortion clinics or doctors have all occurred in the United States. There is no basis for drawing a parallel between these isolated incidents and the wave of religious terrorism threatening Europe.
The lone 2015 incident is typical. On November 29, a shooter with a long criminal history killed three and injured nine at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs. He surrendered after a long siege. He was not associated with any evangelical church or organization, although he may have had religious delusions, as is common among psychiatric patients. No one has blamed the tragedy on Christians.
Why has the myth of evangelical violence against abortion advocates traveled so widely, even internationally? Perhaps, since Christians are the most prominent voices upholding the sanctity of every human life and thus opposing abortion, it is natural for people to assume that those who take up arms against abortion providers must be Christians. But it is also possible that some people are seizing upon these tragedies for political purposes, seeking to damage Christians’ public reputation.
This is very unfortunate. Not only are evangelicals and other Christians unfailingly peaceful in their opposition to abortion, but they are responsible for much of the best and most caring public service around the world, even in an age of government-funded safety nets. They support women in crisis, promote adoption and foster care, and give generously (much more generously than secularists) to aid children and families in poverty. They give selflessly to others because they serve a Lord who did the same.
To falsely besmirch evangelicals’ public image does a great disservice not just to evangelicals themselves, but to all of society. We would all be impoverished without their contributions. We will always have political differences, but let us negotiate them honestly and with mutual respect.
Bodo Ramelov in German: In den USA gebe es “selbst ernannte Evangelikale, die der Meinung sind, sie könnten Abtreibungsgegner oder Abtreibungskliniken überfallen und Menschen umbringen, erschießen, die sich für Abtreibung einsetzen”. Quoted by Katholische Nachrichten, “Vorwurf: Bodo Ramelow verunglimpft Lebensschützer,” April 2, 2016.
About the Colorado shooting in German and then in English:
- Bewaffneter tötet drei Menschen in Abtreibungsklinik (welt.de)
- Colorado Springs: Schießerei vor Abtreibungsklinik – mehrere Verletzte (SPIEGEL ONLINE)
- For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack (New York Times)
- ‘No more baby parts’: Reclusive suspect’s words draw focus (Chicago Tribune)
- Planned Parenthood shooting suspect ruled incompetent (CNN)
- Source: Suspect spoke of ‘baby parts’ after Planned Parenthood shooting (CNN)
- Planned Parenthood Suspect: ‘I Am Warrior For The Babies’ (WOODWORKING information)
- Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Found Incompetent To Stand Trial (WOODWORKING information)
- Planned Parenthood shooting suspect found incompetent to stand trial (USA Today)
Reports from pro-abortion organizations:
- National Abortion Federation: April 2016, Statistics for 2015: 2015 VIOLENCE AND DISRUPTION STATISTICS (PDF)
- NARAL: Fact sheet dated January 1, 2016 (PDF)
Our report on this problem from 2009: