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Appalling appeal?

National | Pro-life activists question colleague's latest fundraising drive; Randall Terry's former wife says she doesn't want to see "donors misled"

Issue: "Troops hunt for weapons," June 14, 2003

A man once attacked largely by abortionists is now being criticized by some of his former colleagues for what they call an unethical fundraising campaign over the past half year.

"The purveyors of abortion on demand have stripped Randall Terry of everything he owned," said the Operation Rescue founder's website, randallterry.com, as of June 5. "The home was sold, and Randall's equity and assets were given to pro-abortion activists." The site then asks visitors to "help our brother.... Please give as generously as you can to restore what the enemy took," with donations to be sent to the Terry Family Trust. Hard-copy letters and e-mail solicitations with similar appeals have since November arrived in mailboxes around the country. (WORLD agreed to rent its mailing list for a Terry Family Trust solicitation in December 2002 and then a larger chunk of the list in February 2003; the proceeds from the rentals were donated to a pro-life charity this month.)

But neither the fundraising letters nor the website disclose that Mr. Terry is set to close on a new $432,000 home near St. Augustine, Fla., in South Ponte Vedra Beach. (Mr. Terry told WORLD he plans to close this month.) Nor do they reveal that Mr. Terry contracted to purchase the home eight months before he sent donors letters saying he'd lost everything to pro-abortion forces. Donations to the Terry Family Trust will go to pay for the house, Mr. Terry told WORLD in a February 2003 telephone interview.

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Some of Mr. Terry's former allies say the fundraising appeal is unbiblical and disingenuous. "I don't think you should ask people to sort of 'pay you back' to cover your losses," Pro-life Action League President Joe Scheidler told WORLD. Minister and pro-life activist Pat Mahoney says Mr. Terry's lifestyle since filing for bankruptcy in 1998 has not been that of a man who lacks money.

Mr. Terry's critics also say many donors who receive the fundraising letters are likely to assume that the proceeds of the Terry Family Trust benefit Mr. Terry's four oldest children, along with Cindy Terry, his wife of 19 years. Instead, the Terry Family Trust is to help Mr. Terry get back into ministry and to benefit his infant son and his second wife, the former Andrea Kollmorgan. She was 22 and served as Mr. Terry's personal assistant during his failed 1998 New York congressional campaign. In August 1999, Mr. Terry left Cindy Terry, and obtained a divorce in November 2000. He married Miss Kollmorgan seven months later.

Mr. Terry told WORLD that he wanted a home where his family will be safe and where "we could entertain people of stature, people of importance. I have a lot of important people that come through my home. And I will have more important people come through my home."

Mr. Terry gained stature himself after he founded Operation Rescue in 1986. Cindy Terry told WORLD that her husband took only a $30,000 annual salary and sold used cars on the side: "Randall was a sacrificial person, the kind who would lift up the unlovely person. Money went where it was supposed to go. We lived normally, had used furniture, lived on a careful budget."

By 1988, pro-abortion groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) began striking back at Mr. Terry in court, piling up judgments against him that ultimately totaled more than $1.6 million. For 10 years pro-aborts were unable to collect any money from Mr. Terry because Cindy Terry held title to the family's property, including their home. In 1998, though, NOW began aggressive legal maneuvers in an attempt to get at Cindy Terry's assets. In November of that year, Mr. Terry filed for bankruptcy, and the Terry home was soon gone.

In March 2002, Mr. Terry and wife Andrea, speaking in churches, visited the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area, where the median home price was about $120,000. The couple had been looking to buy a house in a "homestead state," where creditors cannot seize a family's home, Mr. Terry said. (In varying degrees, such rights are recognized in several states, including Texas and Florida.) They considered the $432,000 house and "said, what the heck, let's do this," Mr. Terry explained.

To secure the purchase, they needed $20,000 by April 30, 2002. Mr. Terry began calling potential donors, offering in exchange for cash gifts quantities of a country music CD he had recorded in Nashville. His plan worked. By April 30, "We had $20,017.... We made the deposit."

But earlier that same month, Mr. Terry had submitted an affidavit to a New York State family court on his financial condition. The court had ordered him to account for his finances in response to a petition Cindy Terry had filed earlier, saying that Mr. Terry was not paying a fair share of child support. In the affidavit, Mr. Terry wrote, "The past two years have been difficult financially for me.... I am three months behind in my rent, in addition to my numerous other debts. Since June, in order to pay necessities, we have been selling many items...."

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