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Condemned by Their Own Words

Three trials have been on my mind a great deal this week.

First was the Prop 8 trial in San Francisco. Teddy Partridge led FDL’s coverage of the effort to strike down CA’s ban on same-sex marriage, and the descriptions from the courtroom were stunning. Most striking, perhaps, were the efforts of the defense-intervenors to justify their own bigotry, their own anti-science viewpoints, and their own homophobia. David Boies was stunningly impressive in taking apart the testimony of various expert witnesses for the D-Is. (Pick a thread, any thread from Day 10 part 3 through the end of the trial to see what I mean.) The Prop 8 trial isn’t over — Judge Walker is taking time to review the evidence before hearing the closing arguments — but the words of the D-Is and their witnesses have revealed the lack of logic that undergirds their thinking.

Closer to home, Wichita has been the site of the second trial on my mind — Scott Roeder’s trial for the murder of Dr. George Tiller. Roeder was found guilty yesterday, and the jury’s decision surprised no one in the courtroom. Devin Friedman has a stunning piece in the latest GQ called “Savior vs. Savior,” contrasting Roeder with Tiller and detailing the events of the last days of Tiller’s life. Friedman spoke at length with Roeder (broken up into many 20 minute phone conversations), as well as others, and Roeder repeated much of the tale in his own testimony on the stand.

Roeder, like the defenders of Prop 8, is proud of what he did, and wanted to tell his story. He told it, and it repulsed the jury. He told it, and it repulsed many of those who heard it outside the courtroom. Roeder’s trial showed him for what he is — a tiny man with a warped view of life. Revealing that to the nation is a powerful blow against those who would try to follow in Roeder’s footsteps.

Indeed, it was such a powerful blow that anti-choice groups are falling all over themselves to say “we’re not like him,” much to the disgust of Randall Terry:

Troy Newman, leader of Operation Rescue, said the anti-abortion movement isn’t about violence, which he denounces. He said the movement is vibrant, strong and healthy, and has grown to become a force in Washington, D.C.

“Pro-life was not on trial,” he said. “It was an insane man doing insane things.”

But abortion foe Randall Terry, the Operation Rescue founder who is now director of a group called Insurrecta Nex, accused anti-abortion leaders of “running like frightened schoolgirls” from Roeder.

“If we condemn him too severely it undermines the premise of everything we stand for,” Terry said.

Yes, there are some who see Roeder as a hero, and who will venerate him as a martyr should he receive the death penalty. But this trial, like the Prop 8 trial, has put a bright light on those who preach hate

Which brings us to that third trial — one that hasn’t happened yet.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been scheduled for trial in NYC, but now that is on hold, and the site is likely to be changed. Why?

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), an early supporter of holding the trial in the city, said this week that the security and financial costs would be too onerous. And in a letter to President Obama on Friday, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said a New York trial heightened the risk of a terrorist attack.

“Without getting into classified details, I believe we should view the attempted Christmas Day plot as a continuation, not an end, of plots to strike the United States by al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” Feinstein said. “Moreover, New York City has been a high-priority target since at least the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The trial of the most significant terrorist in custody would add to the threat.”

Fear! Fear! Fear!

Fear didn’t keep Sedgwick county from trying Scott Roeder, despite the history of anti-abortion violence in Wichita over the years. Cost didn’t keep Sedgwick county from trying this case, despite the heavy security they had in place and the burden placed on the city and the county of the costs for prior abortion-related trials. Justice needed to be served, and it was.

Figuring out logistics is one thing, but running in fear is something else. Sadly, it appears Bloomberg and especially Feinstein fall more in the “running in fear” category. Here’s a news flash for the mayor and ex-mayor: NYC will continue to be a prime target, whether the KSM trial is held there or not.

A trial for KSM — held in federal courts, public and open to the media — is the best defense against terrorism. Like the trial of Scott Roeder and the lawsuit against the Prop 8 defenders, KSM’s trial will reveal the workings of minds twisted by religiously-sanctioned hate. Those whose minds are already twisted will not be deterred from their work, but those whose minds are open will see him and his followers for what they are.

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I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor with a passion for language, progressive politics, and the intersection of people's inner sets of ideals and beliefs (aka "faith" to many) and their political actions. I mostly comment around here, but offer a weekly post or two as well. With the role that conservative Christianity plays in the current Republican politics, I believe that progressives ignore the dynamics of religion, religious language, and religiously-inspired actions at our own peril. I am also incensed at what the TheoCons have done to the public impression of Christianity, and don't want their twisted version of it to go unchallenged in the wider world. I'm a midwesterner, now living in the Kansas City area, but also spent ten years living in the SF Bay area. I'm married to a wonderful microbiologist (she's wonderful all the way around, not just at science) and have a great little Kid, for whom I am the primary caretaker these days. I love the discussions around here, especially the combination of humor and seriousness that lets us take on incredibly tough stuff while keeping it all in perspective and treating one another with respect.

And Preview is my friend.