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archive: Anti-Christian mood seen in Texas killings

Anti-Christian mood seen in Texas killings

Andrea Billups
The Washington Times
September 17, 1999

    Title: Anti-Christian mood seen in Texas killings
    Author: Andrea Billups
    Publication: The Washington Times
    Date: September 17, 1999
    A  "virile and fertile" anti-Christian sentiment is growing around the
    country, religious groups said Thursday, a day after a gunman spouting
    blasphemous rhetoric burst into a youth service at a Fort Worth
    Baptist church and fatally shot seven persons.
    "I believe there is a growing climate of hostility that is directed
    against Christians . . . who find themselves as the targets of a great
    hostility in this culture," said William Merrell, a spokesman for the
    Southern Baptist Convention.
    A "disturbing double standard" is evident in the way attacks on
    Christians are viewed compared with crimes against other groups, a
    spokesman for the Family Research Council said.
    From the Matthew Shepard murder in Wyoming last year to the
    shootings last month at a Jewish community center in California, the
    media and many politicians moved swiftly to label those episodes of
    violence "hate crimes," said Robert Regnier, a cultural studies writer
    at the FRC.
    In the Texas church shootings, he said, "I just don't see any of
    Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer urged the Justice
    Department "to determine if a pattern of crimes against men and women
    of faith exists" in such crimes as Wednesday's shootings at Wedgwood
    Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
    Citing the 1997 shootings of a high school prayer group in Paducah,
    Ky., and the April murders of Christian students at Columbine High
    School in Colorado, Mr. Bauer said Americans are "witnessing a
    disturbing pattern."
    Attorney General Janet Reno warned reporters that it was too early
    to characterize the Fort Worth shooting as a "hate crime," but said
    law enforcement authorities on the scene would uncover the facts.
    "We must get answers and must move carefully to make sure that we
    understand exactly what happened so that we can take the most
    effective action possible," she said. "We should not jump to
    In recent years, politicians and others have frequently blamed
    "hatred" for headline-making crimes. After the April 1995 bombing of a
    federal building in Oklahoma City, President Clinton named G. Gordon
    Liddy among the conservative talk-show hosts he called "purveyors of
    hatred and division," saying they were "encouraging violence."
    Concerned over arson attacks on black churches in 1996, civil rights
    leader Joseph Lowery accused the Christian Coalition of fostering an
    "extremist climate." Gay-rights advocate Joan M. Garry suggested last
    fall's murder of Mr. Shepard, a homosexual university student, was the
    result of a conservative anti-homosexuality campaign she said "fuels
    the fires of bigotry."
    Anti-Christian bias as a crime motive is routinely ignored by the
    news media, said Brent Baker, vice president of research and
    publications for the Media Research Council.
    "The media were very quick in August to draw the conclusion that the
    shooter at the Los Angeles Jewish community center was motivated by
    anti-Semitism," Mr. Baker said, but with Wednesday's shootings at the
    Texas church, reporters are "being much more hesitant to assign a
    When 14-year-old Michael Carneal killed three students praying at a
    Paducah high school, religious bias "was never a theme raised on TV
    networks, that this guy was anti-Christian," Mr. Baker said. Instead,
    reporters focused on Carneal's parents and the influence of violent
    entertainment, he said, although "it became quite clear later on that
    [anti-religious sentiment] was the motivation."
    "When it is a particular minority group that's attacked, the media
    assume that's the reason for the attack," Mr. Baker said. "When it
    happens to Christians, the media don't assume that at all."
    Mr. Merrell of the Southern Baptist Convention agreed that crimes
    committed against Christians often are treated differently.
    "It does not pass our notice that there are many who appeal to the
    populace for hate crimes legislation when certain groups are targeted,
    but remain curiously silent when other groups are," he said, adding
    that the "virile and fertile culture" of hostility to Christians is
    "growing rapidly."
    The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith
    Alliance Foundation, said he doubts there is a climate of violence
    directed at religious groups, but fears some people will use episodes
    like Wednesday's shootings "to try to politicize yet another tragedy."
    "I don't think we're seeing a concerted effort of attack on people
    of faith," said Mr. Gaddy, who used to live near the Fort Worth church
    where the shootings occurred. He blamed "a high level of anger,
    frustration and mental illness among people in our society who have a
    ready accessibility to weapons" for the killings.
    Others, however, have compared increased suspicion toward Christians
    to the Roman Empire's persecution of the early church.
    Harold O.J. Brown of the Howard Center for the Family, Religion and
    Society wrote in March that he saw a "similarity between the way the
    Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with 'odium humani
    generis' [hatred of the human race] and the way the political and
    media establishment charge the Christians with creating a 'climate of
    hate.' "
    David Overstreet, national director of field ministries for the
    National Network of Youth Ministries, said Christians have endured
    persecution throughout the ages.
    As evidenced by the targeting of Christians in the Columbine and
    Paducah shootings, however, "there is a heightened potential for
    prejudice on school campuses," he said. Mr. Overstreet blamed a
    collapse of moral standards for producing what he called "a growing
    culture of violence."

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