Michael Bray: Controversial Anti-Abortionist Speaks Out on Planned Parenthood and other matters
Michael Bray: Controversial Anti-Abortionist Speaks Out on Planned Parenthood and other matters
Recently, I read that Planned Parenthood was attempting to collect on a legal judgment against Michael Bray. I wanted to learn more about it and contacted him. Michael is arguably one of the most contentious figures in the anti-abortion movement. Some love him and some hate him. He was convicted of conspiracy in the planned bombing of an abortion clinic and spent time in prison. Today, he continues to maintain his innocence in the matter. The reason(s) for his position are included in the below interview. I disagree with Michael on a number of things. However, I also find him and his story most interesting--if not compelling. I hope you will too.
Assistant Pastor Grace Lutheran Church-Bowie, MD. Co-Pastor Reformation Lutheran Church-Bowie, MD. Adjunct Professor Chatfield College St. Martin, OH. Books: A Time to Kill (1993); Actors in the Kingdom (1990)
Sher: Michael, thanks so much for joining me, today. You are likely one of--if not the--most controversial anti-abortion activists today. First and foremost, you have been one of the most controversial figures in the pro-life movement. You have been called “violent” by the abortion crowd and to be fair, after a series of bombings of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, in 1985 you were arrested, charged, convicted of conspiracy and spent 1985-1989 in prison. Would you tell us what led you to your actions and what Scripture(s) you followed to support your decision.
Michael: Thank you for the opportunity to share some facts on the subject as well as my thoughts. The record shows that I was convicted in federal court on the testimony of Thomas Spinks, a co-defendant, on various conspiracy charges in connection with the destruction of several abortuaries - $1 million in damages (in 1984 dollars) - by means of explosives and/or fire in D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware. Mr. Spinks had denied any involvement on my part until, while sitting in jail for months without bail, his resolve weakened. The joy of having blessed the nation with deliverance from several baby-butchering contemporary Auschwitzes began to wear thin as he sat in a noisy jail without any lawyers coming to his aid, threatened severely with many years in prison. He was offered an attractive plea bargain in exchange for testifying that I collaborated with him; he would be given a 15-year sentence rather than sixty-some years. Another co-defendant and associate of Mr. Spinks was Kenneth Shields who was sentenced by plea agreement to two years.
The record also shows that upon appeal my conviction was reversed in the summer of 1985, after 18 months of jail time. Returning to trial and facing additional charges amounting to an aggregate forty-some years, creatively assembled by U.S. district attorneys, I opted to enter an “Alford Plea” rather than a plea of “innocent.” This eponymous term derives from a 1963 North Carolina case where Mr. Henry Alford could in good conscience admit no guilt in a murder charge. However, in the face of evidence likely enough to bring a conviction and the option of pleading guilty to reduce the severity of the punishment, he opted to enter a guilty plea without admission of guilt. Under this “Alford Doctrine,” I entered a guilty plea and admitted no guilt. The plea bargaining between my lawyers and the federal prosecutors – with the judge’s compliance – was that a straight “guilty” plea would result in a five-year sentence. My preferred Alford Plea could be had for an extra year. Additionally, while waiting in a noisy county jail in Maryland for a few weeks through these negotiations, having been uprooted from my new home in Ray Brook F.C.I, near Lake Placid, New York, it was communicated to me by my attorney from “the court” that a benefit of entering a straight guilty plea would redound to my being let out on bond for a few weeks to join my family over Christmas. Sentencing would occur after the holidays and I could return to my new “home” in New York for another 18 months to complete the three real time years on a five-year sentence.
I opted for the Alford Plea. Six years. And no release on bond to be home for a few weeks before returning to New York. It was an hour’s drive for my wife and the Harford County Jail, in Bel Air, Maryland was noisy. I would remain there until sentencing in several weeks before I was returned to Ray Brook. That was the “deal.” I had support, however. My wife as well as my co-pastor visited on separated occasions. He brought the Sacrament to me and prayed for endurance and faithfulness.
Confinement to a miserable jail serves certain unspoken purposes of prosecutors. A disagreeable environment induces compliant pleas from the one imprisoned. He is inclined by such coercion to do what is necessary to find relief from discomfiting conditions. Time and misery take a toll, but the intentions in such events are not human ones alone.
It was in such a place and under the strain of decision and pressure to controvert conscience that a divine purpose came to be recognized in due time. It did not become clear and appreciated until many years later. In the short run, the decision to endure a raucous environment satisfied my conscience. There was no guilt to be confessed. And no deed to be denied or renounced: The deeds I was charged with were not misdeeds and needed no renunciation or repentance therefrom. There was no guilt to be confessed or admitted.
Only recently have my thoughts been focused upon a particular divine purpose for the weeks spent in the [omission] Harford County Jail. There was a man named Michael Murphy there with me. He contacted us twenty years later here in Ohio where we have lived since moving from Maryland in 2003. He and his wife live in Chicago. After calling us a few years ago, the couple made a six hour drive to visit us. He had phoned out of the blue, having tracked down contact information. We had spoken once previously on the phone after parole limitations on contact with felons and ex-felons had expired. Our visit was quite an enjoyable and satisfying one.
He reminded me of his situation there at that time. A narcotics cop, he had gotten into trouble with personal addiction as well as theft of property recovered by law enforcement personnel. He had fallen from law enforcer to law breaker and, by his own assessment, he was far from God. Michael said that in a state of mental and spiritual desperation among an assembly of miscreants and malefactors, he felt drawn to me. It was a surreal several days.
I had unabashedly made a stand among fellow inmates, insisting, for instance, that I get my food last and that if I didn’t get all that was intended, I would “call the cops” – the prison guards who delivered everyone’s food. Our meals were delivered through a small opening in the door which gave access to a larger common area with two steel picnic tables surrounded by a dozen cells each with a set of bunk beds and a toilet. But as the food was passed around from inmate to inmate as it was quickly received and forward from one to another, there were always some who ended up with more than others. The disparity was clear to all, understood by some, and opposed by none.
When I publicly objected asking why some had extras and others had none, the answer given by one or two, with some nodding approval and others just turning away, was that this and that inmate owed food items to this one or that one for various reasons (bets, trades, etc.). When I objected that the accounting was not quite right and that a few of us were shorted our meal, I was met with intransigence from certain ostensible enforcers among the inmates. The short of the story was that I prevailed and Michael Murphy made me his mentor.
Michael had observed me sitting in the early morning quiet taking advantage of some light coming from a window only the floor where I sat reading the Scriptures. He was full of questions and made many inquiries into matters of justice, spirit, Jesus, sin, and guilt. As was made clear years later, it was a divine appointment.
All this to say that I was immured for 46 months and 10 days rather than the three years - all over a matter of conscience. The extra ten months figured, it seems, by frail human assessment, to have served at least one purpose – the evangelization of Michael Murphy. I might surmise and ponder many other divine purposes, but onward to your inquiry.
My actions – whatever they were, and such as they are asserted to be – were, indeed, anti-abortion and I can ably defend those deeds as they have been alleged by the government. The principle is simple: children in the womb are no less human beings than those outside the womb and may not be harmed or killed by anyone - parents, relatives, government, or enemies. Due process must be afforded them as it must those outside the womb before their lives may be lawfully taken. Of course it is silly to assert such process when these little ones are without the capacity to commit crimes. Therefore they must all the more be afforded the protection of the law and when the law fails to protect them, they may be protected by any citizen who chooses to so do whether acting out of duty or sheer merciful sympathy. Whatever methods of protection may be adduced for the protection of those outside the womb may be employed for those inside the womb. This principle is supported not only in the Law of God, but in the our own western case law as well as our statutes – protection for the unborn was present in the laws of all the States of the Union until 1973.
The moral and legal insanity of the Roe opinion is carried along by the modernist liberation movements grounded in Lawlessness. I affirm, to the contrary, the historic Christian and western view of man which acknowledges that he is “endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights” which include the right to life. When we deny the Creator and the dignity of human beings grounded in the “image of God” in which they are created, we permit not just race-based slavery, but the destruction of out-of-favor humanity.
The same Holy Scriptures to which Lincoln appealed provide the case for protecting innocent human beings. If a man is breaking into my house at night with the intent to steal, says Moses, and I discover him, I man kill him without incurring bloodguilt. That is, I will not be charged with murder (Ex. 22:2). The assumption is that I did not know that the man was just a thief and not a murderer. I may not kill a thief unless he may be legitimately regarded as a threat to my family. The principle here is lethal defensive action. Human beings may be protected from aggressors with lethal force as necessary. This is the doctrine of Defensive Action. The command to love includes the principle of defense and protection. The command to love my neighbor includes taking action which preserves his life and protects him from an aggressor. We are authorized by God and the civil laws (which are not always, as in the present case, consistent with themselves) to defend the innocent.
The inclusion of the child in the womb is exemplified in the Mosaic case law where two men are fighting and by accident they strike a pregnant woman and she delivers a child prematurely. The responsible offender must pay for any injuries – life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Ex. 21:22, 23). That is, the lex talionis applies for the child in the womb as it does for those outside the womb. The Scriptures do not blur the value of the child across artificial developmental lines drawn by modern neonatologists. There is a singular word for the newborn and the one in the womb. John the Baptist is a “brephos” jumping in his mother’s womb. The same term is used to indicate an ex-utero infants in the rest of the New Testament.
It is the biblical doctrine of the image of God in man, the imago Dei, which has informed the laws of western civilization for almost two millennia. That doctrine has given us the principle of “the dignity of man” which holds humanity above the rest of creation and indicates basic protections which our Constitution and legislation have upheld.
I see I have gotten a windy on this question. I will attempt to be a bit more succinct.
Sher: In our recent conversation, you referred to yourself as a Christian Reconstructionist (aka Theonomy). In multiple articles from the traditional media, the movement is referred to as “radical” and “frightening.” Yet, it seems to be a belief that promotes the worldview of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…a viewpoint held by Hebrews and Christians for millennia. Would you tell us your belief and practice of and in this belief system?
Michael: That term, in contemporary parlance, best describes my view of the proper foundation for civil law. I believe that God’s Law – given by Moses and the Prophets and reformulated by Christ - provides us the standard for all civil governments of the world. As the Gospel message goes forth and prepares the hearts of the people to “walk in the law” (Romans 8), the Law serves as a foundation for the civil laws of the nations. By what other standard would we Christians recommend that the nations govern?
Sher: Planned Parenthood v ACLA (American Coalition of Life Activists) was a case against you and the ACLA for distributing “Wanted” flyers that gave some personal information about abortionist doctors. The jury found the flyers to be “true threats. “Planned Parenthood won the case and received a judgment against you and 10 others; to you personally it was a $1Million judgment. However, it was not quite specific in how it was to be administered. Recently, Planned Parenthood began the sale of your unpublished works including your personal letters via auction. Will you give us your perspective on these recent developments?
Michael: Well, it is quite a curious matter to contemplate. They made no grand effort to sell that which they despise. I found the proceeding to be a bit bizarre as well as entertaining. Writings which they say are all about threatening abortionists they were forced to advertise and sell. It was as if they were having their noses rubbed in their own dirty diapers. They sold them for $5,000 and surely spent many times that in briefings and court proceedings since they raided my home in 2007. On that day in October we were invaded by surprise and told we had to evacuate the house in thirty days. I was confined on a couch for a few hours as PP attorneys, and federal marshals searched the house and gathered up all my books and all computers in the house. One marshal specifically asked me whether I had copies of A Time to Kill in the house. (I did not.) At a hearing soon after, a federal judge noted that according to Ohio law, executions on property to fulfill a debt must first exhaust personal property before real estate. Therefore, we could remain in the house until PP sold my personal property. Exemptions in the law allow for professional books to be returned, so all the books came back eventually. The computers have not been returned.
The intention of the raid apart from harassment and seizing of property was two-fold: to get my computer and discover any mischievous activity and gather names and correspondences of mine which might have provided for further information for investigation or prosecution of their enemies; and to seize copies of A Time to Kill.
The book had been used regularly by two universities in political science courses: the University of Southern California and the University of South Florida. As soon as this fact was discovered by deposition with PP attorneys in 2001 the orders for those books ceased. It was evident that PP contacted those institutions and made threats regarding liability issues. I can only imagine:
“Do you know what would happen to your school if a student from one of your classes which used that book went out and blew up a reproductive health clinic?
“The author is a criminal, an ex-convict, who has been successfully sued for making threats against providers.”
It is clear to me from all I have observed that PP is zealous to suppress circulation of A Time to Kill.
Sher: Any interview of you would not be complete without asking you about the current situation in both the USA and the world. You believed that the Clinton Administration was a totalitarian one. What in the world do you think of the current Obama regime and where do you see the USA ending up under Dictator-in-Chief Obama?
Michael: Our recent presidents have been the appropriate leaders for a people who tolerate child murder. It is sad to see a people depart from God, from justice. And yet, I remain hopeful that a repentant people will assemble themselves at the local level of towns and counties and assert the risen Christ as the King and His Laws as true laws for the land. The simplest message a local church can do is to hoist the Christian flag (representing the True God) above the U.S. flag. It goes on from there to more serious steps which may involve surrendering 501.c.3 (tax exempt, government –approved) status. But that is another story.
Sher: Michael, thank you so much for your input and for providing my readers with your insight. Some years ago, your book “A Time to Kill” was published. Is it still available and, if so, where can people obtain a copy?
Sher Zieve is a long-time syndicated columnist who generally writes columns of a politically Conservative and Constitutional nature. She also interviews notable people with an interesting and/or newsworthy story to tell. These include politicians, writers, activists and others in the news. Her work has been and continues to be carried by both national and international publications. Sher appears regularly on national talk shows.