Tiller’s Alleged Murderer Has Decades-Long History of Extremism

David Holthouse

The man suspected of killing women's health provider George Tiller has a long history of involvement with the anti-government "sovereign citizen" movement, as well as anti-abortion radicalism.

The man suspected of fatally shooting abortion
provider George Tiller as Tiller served as an usher during church
services yesterday has a long history of involvement with the
anti-government "sovereign citizen" movement, as well as anti-abortion

Scott Roeder, 51, allegedly killed Tiller with a single shot in the
foyer of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kan. Roeder was
taken into custody a few hours later in Kansas City and is being held
without bail.

Roeder’s arrest is further evidence of a resurgence of right-wing extremism. A recent Department of Homeland Security report came under severe criticism from the right for making the point that such extremism is likely on the rise.

Roeder’s support of violent extremism dates back
at least as far as April 1996, when police in Topeka, Kan. pulled him
over for driving with a bogus license plate. Instead of a legitimate
license plate his vehicle bore a "sovereign citizen" plate that
proclaimed the driver immune from state and federal laws.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The same type of tag was being used by members of the Montana Freemen, a violent sovereign citizen group that at the time was involved in a prolonged armed standoff with federal agents in Montana.

In Roeder’s trunk, investigators found a pound of gunpowder, a
nine-volt battery wired to a switch, ammunition and blasting caps.

Since his 1996 arrest, Roeder seems to have focused primarily on
anti-abortion radicalism, including several posts in recent years
proposing a confrontation with Dr. Tiller inside Tiller’s church.

"Bless everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp," Roeder posted
to the Web site of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in May
2007. "Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people
as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have
much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor,
Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would
hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller."

Roeder isn’t the only link
between the militant anti-abortion movement and the Freemen. During the
1996 standoff, the Rev. W.N. Otwell, who called America a "white man’s
country" and led camouflage-clad followers in protests abortion
clinics, traveled from his Texas compound to support the Montana Freemen in their 81-day armed standoff.

Dr. Tiller is the eighth abortion provider to be assassinated since
1977, according to the National Abortion Federation. Fifteen years ago,
his name appeared atop a "hit list" that was circulated among pro-life

This post first appeared on Hatewatch, the Southern Poverty Law Center blog.

News Violence

Department of Justice Lawyer Argues Angel Dillard’s Letter Posed ‘True Threat’

Michelle D. Anderson

In a U.S. District Court civil trial in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday, DOJ trial attorney Richard Goemann argued that it was Dillard’s intent to intimidate and threaten the Wichita-based family doctor.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sought to prove that anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard’s letter to a Kansas doctor posed a “true threat” in a U.S. District Court civil trial in Wichita, Kansas, on Tuesday.

Using news articles and letters sent to the letter’s recipient, Dr. Mila Means, DOJ trial attorney Richard Goemann argued that it was Dillard’s intent to intimidate and threaten the Wichita-based family doctor.

Based on court testimony, the letter, sent after knowledge of Means’ intent to become the state’s sole abortion provider was public, offered an image of what the doctor might face if she followed through on her plans and continued abortion care training.

The letter said people in the anti-choice movement would soon know where Means shops, drives, and lives.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

“You will be checking under your car every day—because maybe today is the day someone places an explosive under it,” the letter said.

Means testified to the selected eight-person jury that Dillard said in the letter, “It’s not too late to change your mind,” and that a collective, of which Dillard was a member, would do anything they could to stop Means.

The letter also made references to “squirming” fetuses and slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who was killed in a church by Dillard’s associate, Scott Roeder, in 2009.

Dillard told the Associated Press in a 2009 interview that Roeder, in a single act, was able to accomplish what members of the anti-choice movement had not been able to do despite their many efforts. She was quoted as saying he “followed his convictions and I admire that.”

Although she had received anti-abortion letters before, some of which the DOJ introduced as evidence for comparison as to what constitutes a threat, Means said Dillard’s letter frightened her because it suggested murder was a consequence for providing abortion care.

“It sounded scary. It talked about potential bombs under my car,” Means told the court.

Upon learning about the letter, the DOJ in April 2011 filed a civil lawsuit against Dillard for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The federal law, signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, prohibits threatening or otherwise interfering with access to abortion clinics or providers. Just a year prior to the law’s enactment, Rachel “Shelley” Shannon, an anti-choice terrorist who followed the Army of God Manual, an anti-abortion document shared among extremists, had attempted to murder Tiller.

In August 2013, after the DOJ filed the suit, a federal judge dismissed the DOJ’s claim and said Dillard’s letter constituted constitutionally protected speech.

The DOJ appealed that ruling shortly thereafter.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued an opinion in July 2015 saying a jury should be left to decide whether the letter constituted a “true threat,” bringing the case to the U.S. District Court in Wichita.

The DOJ is requesting a civil penalty of $15,000 and $5,000 in damages paid to Means.

Much of Tuesday’s court proceedings focused on jury selection. Some jurors were eliminated, including a man who identified himself as a friend of an attorney in the case, and a woman who said she couldn’t be objective about Dillard’s relationship with Roeder.

Dillard’s defense team, which includes Wichita attorney Craig Shultz and Theresa Sidebotham, founder of the Colorado-based Telios Law, alluded in court to evidence they might use when the case resumes Wednesday.

Sidebotham said Dillard’s letter did not constitute a threat and that lack of evidence was “a huge problem for the U.S.”

Throughout her opening statement, she told potential jurors violence was completely against Dillard’s moral compass and accused the DOJ of being “oversensitive” in how it defines a threat.

She characterized Dillard’s letter as “fairly critical” and “harsh,” but said it was never meant to be threatening. The “consequences” Dillard provide, Sidebotham said, were “simply a list of things to reflect on.”

Dillard’s defense went on to distance the Kansas woman from radical anti-choice activists, saying Dillard only occasionally protested and didn’t know much about “the radical abortion groups.” She also argued that Dillard’s comment about Roeder’s conviction had been taken out of context.

The court will resume the evidence hearings on Wednesday, with Dillard’s defense presenting their evidence to the jury.

Roundups Politics

Ted Cruz Is No Moderate: Meet Some of His Most Extreme Allies

Ally Boguhn

The presidential candidate has lined up supporters who have suggested that marriage equality may usher in a second civil war and compared Planned Parenthood workers to perpetrators of clinic violence.

In his quest to secure conservative votes, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) has embraced extremists across the country, many of whom have well-documented histories of anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, and racist rhetoric. As more moderate Republicans flock to Cruz in a push to block Donald Trump from winning their party’s nomination, Cruz’s support of these extremists sheds light on his future policy making, should he be elected president.

Though hardly an exhaustive list of the radicals with whom Cruz has aligned, here are some of the most reactionary characters in his playbook.

Troy Newman

Cruz and activist Troy Newman, head of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, have spent months on the campaign trail praising each other’s extreme stances on abortion.

Operation Rescue moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 2002 to continue its campaign to intimidate abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, whom it had nicknamed “Tiller the Killer.” Before Newman came on as president, the group had previously targeted Tiller as part of its 1991 “Summer of Mercy,” when it led protesters to physically block and verbally intimidate those entering abortion clinics in Wichita, holding signs that, among other things, read “Tiller’s Slaughter House.”

Although Newman issued a statement on behalf of Operation Rescue condemning Scott Roeder when he murdered Tiller in 2009, a 2010 Ms. investigation reported that, according to Roeder, Newman had once told him that “it wouldn’t upset” him if an abortion provider was killed. (Newman denied meeting Roeder.) Roeder also had the phone number of Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger on a note on the dashboard of his car when he murdered Tiller. Sullenger, the senior vice president of the group, had been sentenced to prison time in 1988 for attempting to bomb an abortion clinic.

Newman co-founded anti-choice front group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in 2013, whose widely discredited videos alleged that Planned Parenthood was illegally profiting from fetal tissue donations. Multiple ensuing investigations at both the state and federal level produced no evidence of wrongdoing, and one of the group’s other founders, David Daleiden, was later indicted in connection to the videos. Newman later separated from the group.

Despite the extremism of Newman’s groups, Cruz lauded the anti-choice activist upon receiving his endorsement in November, saying in a statement, “We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.”

Cruz announced in late January that Newman would co-chair his coalition of anti-choice advisers, “Pro-Lifers for Cruz,” listing Newman’s book co-authored with Sullenger, Their Blood Cries Out, among his accomplishments. As Right Wing Watch noted, however, the text argues women who have abortions should be treated like murderers, and that abortion doctors should be executed. The book, now out of print, read: “[T]he United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt [sic] from the land and people,” according to Mother Jones.

Tony Perkins

Troy Newman isn’t the only radical in “Pro-Lifers for Cruz”—the group’s chair, Tony Perkins, is an anti-LGBTQ activist with a history of aiding extremist anti-choice groups.

Since 2003, Perkins has led the Family Research Council (FRC), classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as a “hate group” for its anti-LGBTQ record.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Recounting Perkins’ biography, the SPLC noted that although he claimed to have left a police force position over a disagreement about containing an anti-choice protest, “the reality is quite different.” The SPLC pointed to a report from the Nation finding that Perkins “failed to report an illegal conspiracy by anti-abortion activists” Operation Rescue during the group’s 1992 “Summer of Purpose,” while he worked dual roles as a reserve police officer in Baton Rouge and reporting for a conservative television station:

According to Victor Sachse, a classical record shop owner in the city who volunteered as a patient escort for the clinic, Perkins’ reporting was so consistently slanted and inflammatory that the clinic demanded his removal from its grounds.

In order to control an increasingly tense situation, the police chief had a chain-link fence erected to separate anti-abortion activists from pro-choice protesters, and he called in sheriff’s deputies and prison guards as extra forces. Perkins publicly criticized the department and the chief. Then, after learning about plans for violent tactics by anti-abortion activists to break through police lines and send waves of protesters onto the clinic’s grounds, he failed to inform his superiors on the force. As a result of his actions, Perkins was suspended from duty in 1992, and he subsequently quit the reserve force.

Perkins also has ties to white supremacist groups and is well known as a vocal opponent of LGBTQ equality, having suggested, among other things, that there is “a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia,” and that lawmakers who supported the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy had “the blood of innocent soldiers on their hands.”

Frank Gaffney

Cruz’s list of national security advisers, meanwhile, includes Frank Gaffney Jr. Even in the face of criticism, Cruz has defended his pick, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “Frank Gaffney is a serious thinker who has been focused on fighting jihadists, fighting jihadism across the globe.”

Gaffney, a former Reagan administration official, is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). In this year’s Intelligence Report, which documents extremist groups, the SPLC categorized CSP as an anti-Muslim hate group.

The CSP’s primary focus in recent years “has been on demonizing Islam and Muslims under the guise of national security” by promoting conspiracy theories, according to SPLC. The Center for American Progress’ 2011 report, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, featured Gaffney as a key player in promoting anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States, writing that he often “makes unsubstantiated claims about ‘stealth jihad,’ the ‘imposition of Sharia law,’ and the proliferation of ‘radical mosques.'”

Gordon Klingenschmitt

Cruz announced in early April that his Colorado Leadership Team included state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs), asserting he was “honored” to have the support of the politician and 24 other conservatives from the the state.

The previous week, Klingenschmitt had made headlines for claiming transgender people are “confused about their own identity” during an appearance on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

Klingenschmitt had been previously stripped of his position on the Colorado House of Representatives’ House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee in early 2015 after claiming on his television program that a violent attack on a pregnant woman in the state was the result of “the curse of God upon America for our sin of not protecting innocent children in the womb.”

“Part of that curse for our rebellion against God as a nation is that our pregnant women are ripped open,” claimed Klingenschmitt at the time before going on to pray for an “end to the holocaust which is abortion in America.”

In the wake of the deadly shootings at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood in November 2015, Klingenschmitt claimed that “Planned Parenthood executives” have the “same demonic spirit of murder” as the alleged killer, Robert Lewis Dear Jr.

Earlier in 2015, the Colorado state representative said that Planned Parenthood executives have “demons inside of them, you can see the blood dripping from their fangs. These people are just evil.” That June, he criticized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) for signing a measure forcing those seeking abortions to receive medically unnecessary forced ultrasounds, claiming that the law didn’t go far in enough because it didn’t ban abortion entirely
James Dobson

Focus on the Family (FoF) founder and chairman James Dobson played a starring role in a February ad released by the Cruz campaign, which praised the candidate for defending “the sanctity of human life and traditional marriage.” That same month, he rolled out a robocall for a super PAC supporting the candidate after giving Cruz his endorsement last year.

Dobson’s FoF has spent millions promoting its anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ extremism, even dropping an estimated $2.5 million in 2010 to fund an anti-choice Super Bowl ad featuring conservative football player Tim Tebow. Dobson also founded the aforementioned Family Research Council, now headed by Tony Perkins.

Dobson’s own personal rhetoric is just as extreme as the causes his organization pushes. As extensively documented by Right Wing Watch,

Dobson has:

Other Notable Extremists Working With Cruz

Conservative radio host Steve Deace, a member of the Cruz campaign’s Iowa leadership team, is “virulently anti-LGBT, having repeatedly attacked supporters of LGBT equality as being part of a ‘Rainbow Jihad,'” according to media watchdog organization Media Matters for America.

In October Cruz announced he was “thrilled” to receive the endorsement of Sandy Rios, a conservative radio host and official at the American Family Association-yet another organization classified by the SPLC as a hate group. Rios gained notoriety during the 2015 Amtrak crash in Philadelphia after claiming the conductor’s sexuality may have played a role in the accident.

Cruz and several other Republican presidential candidates spoke alongside far-right, anti-LGBTQ pastor and Christian radio host Kevin Swanson in November at the National Religious Liberties Conference. Swanson is featured in GLAAD’s Commentator Accountability Project, which highlights figures who “represent extreme animus towards the entire LGBT community.”

A&E’s Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson has been a fierce Cruz supporter, and in February the presidential candidate pitched the idea of making him an ambassador to the United Nations should he be elected. Just weeks earlier, Robertson had called same-sex marriage “evil” during a Cruz rally. This statement came as little surprise given the reality television star’s previous comments condemning homosexuality and linking it to bestiality.

Cruz was also “thrilled” in March to win an endorsement from “Ohio’s top conservative leaders”—a list that included activist Linda Harvey, who once wrote that LGBTQ youth may be possessed by “demonic spirits.”