"Hate Crime" Hypocrites

The hypocrisy of "hate crime" propagandists was underscored by the media's handling of Larry Gene Ashbrook's shooting rampage at the Wedgwood Baptist Church. The talking heads who are quick to view any attack on a member of a government-ordained victim group as a "hate crime" were once again unwilling to apply the same standard to an assault on Christians.

There is no doubt as to Ashbrook's animus toward Christianity. According to witnesses, Ashbrook spewed anti-religious invective even as he targeted victims. Interrupting a religious song, he shouted to several youngsters, "I can't believe you believe this junk and singing this. This religion is [expletive]."

Mary Beth Talley, 17, who was wounded during the rampage, recalled: "He was saying, 'Your religion is nothing, it's not worth anything, it means nothing.' "Twelve-year-old Caleb Payne recalled that Ashbrook screamed and cursed as he approached the pews: "He said, 'This religious stuff is a bunch of bull.' He said that over five times. And he kept firing." Despite such firsthand testimony, authorities insisted they could not find a motive for the shootings.

Similarly, the "hate" crimes issue was not raised earlier this year when Columbine High School student Cassie Bernall was shot to death after replying "Yes" when asked if she believed in God. (The issue was raised in the case of a fellow Columbine student who was black.)

Nor was the issue raised in the case of the 1997 shooting at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky. In that tragedy, 14-year-old self-professed atheist Michael Carneal killed three students, and wounded five others, who had just participated in a prayer circle. Brent Baker, vice president of research and publications for the Media Research Center, notes that Carneal's religious bias "was never a theme raised on TV networks" even though "it became quite clear later on that [Carneal's anti-religious sentiment] was the motivation." Baker observes: "When it is a particular minority group that's attacked, the media assume that's the reason for the attack. When it happens to Christians, the media don't assume that at all."

William Merrell, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, also believes that "there is a growing climate of hostility ... directed against Christians," and 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 ominously adds that the "virile and fertile culture" of anti-Christian hostility is "growing rapidly."


Fort Worth Shootings: Tragedy at an Unarmed Church

While addressing the annual dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington on September 18th, President Clinton stated, "I think the killing of innocent people en masse in America has been the most painful thing that [Vice President Al Gore] and I and our families have had to endure in discharging our duties for America."

Mr. Clinton opted not to mention the extent to which firearm-related incidents entailing "the killing of innocent people en masse" have increased during his administration, in the wake of his crusade for ever more draconian gun controls. The Dallas Morning News for September 19th noted that multiple killings today are different than in the past, because they are occurring in such traditionally "safe" places as "schools, churches, a day-care center." That is, "gun-free" zones where anti-gun zealots by prohibiting or discouraging the presence of firearms have metaphorically hung targets inviting criminal attack.

Much of the bloodshed that the President laments is attributable to his own anti-gun agenda, yet he continues to blame mostly firearms for such incidents as the September 15th rampage by Larry Gene Ashbrook at the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

Around 150 teens and adults had gathered at the church for a concert by a Christian rock band. Ashbrook entered the church armed with two handguns, which he was apparently carrying illegally since he did not have a Texas concealed handgun license (CHL). He methodically shot members of the congregation, eventually killing seven persons and wounding seven others before committing suicide.

Texas law allows persons holding CHLs to carry firearms in churches, unless specifically notified to the contrary by churches that opt to ban guns. None of the Fort Worth congregants was armed. Ashbrook was apparently confident that such would be the case, and as a result he was in complete control of the situation to the extent that he was able to decide when he would end his rampage and when he would take his own life. After reviewing a videotape taken by a concertgoer, acting Fort Worth Police Chief Ralph Mendoza told reporters, "To watch him [Ash-brook] just do what he did, and not seem to worry about it, not seem to be panicked about it it's extremely angering." Mendoza said that what astonished him most was "the methodical manner in which the gunman ... stood there and fired shot after shot after shot .... He is just holding his hand out with the gun in it, slowly, methodically picking things to shoot at." He was even able to take the time to reload, not once, but two or three times.

That would not have been the case had one or more adults in attendance been armed; some lives could have been saved and injuries avoided. In fact, Ashbrook might not even have targeted the church if he believed guns were present.