The sole sound in the hushed courtroom on June 2 was Eric Rudolph's leg shackles dragging on the floor as he shuffled in. The navy blue bullet-resistant vest against his orange jumpsuit displayed the official desire to protect his life even though, in his misapplied ardor to protect unborn children, he allegedly took the life of a police officer in Alabama and harmed others as well.
Just before the arraignment, dozens of reporters and television news crews swarmed outside the federal court building in Asheville, N.C., not far from where Mr. Rudolph was apprehended as he raided a supermarket dumpster. One man paced around with signs advocating birth control as the only way to save the world. Three pro-life advocates displayed blown-up pictures of bloodied 10-week-old aborted unborn children under the heading, "Choice."
A photographer, stating that publications would not run photographs of dead fetuses, asked the demonstrators to flip their signs around to the less jarring "Stop war on pre-born children!" written on the other side. But the main show was inside, where reading out 23 charges against Mr. Rudolph-some of which carry the death penalty-took up most of the half-hour-long hearing. He responded, "Yes, Your Honor" to the judge's question about whether he needed a lawyer.
He'll need several lawyers. After the Asheville arraignment, officials moved Mr. Rudolph to Alabama (at Attorney General John Ashcroft's request) to stand trial for the bombing of a Birmingham abortion business. He will then go to Georgia in connection with bombings there, including one at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta.
Christianity, according to The Washington Post on June 2, might also need legal representation or at least public-relations help. "Is Terrorism Tied to Christian Sect?" the Post headline asked, and a prominently displayed photo depicted a metal cross at the entrance to a possible Rudolph hangout in the North Carolina mountains.
The lead paragraph of the story asked, "Is he a 'Christian terrorist'?" Following paragraphs quoted a political-science professor at Syracuse University saying the answer is yes, and Idaho State University sociology professor James Aho offering an aha, gotcha: Christians who protest the juxtaposition of "Christian" and "terrorist" may understand "how Muslims feel" when they hear the term "Islamic terrorism."
It's fine to understand feelings, but facts are also important. The Post did not point out that leading American pastors have universally condemned bombing of abortion businesses but many leading Islamic clerics in the Middle East have refused to condemn the murder by Muslims of innocent civilians. Nor did it note that the Quran (in contrast to a document of similar length, the New Testament) has only a few statements promoting peace but over 100 promoting warfare. (Example: "Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you" [9:123]).
Many other newspapers did better. The Los Angeles Times, on its toes after editor John Carroll's wake-up call (see WORLD, June 7), ran six Rudolph-related articles during the first three days of June. None of them suggested a Christian/ terrorism connection.