Soldier of God

A cheerleader for murder, Rev. Donald Spitz says his anti-abortion message is finally getting through

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“After Michael Griffin shot the abortionist in Pensacola. I received a phone call from Paul Hill,” Spitz recalls. “He had made up a document, a justifiable homicide document, which said that Michael Griffin shot David Gunn to prevent him from killing unborn children. He was looking for people to sign it, and he wanted to know if I wanted to sign on. After that, I started going to Pensacola, and we would go to abortion clinics together, and I stayed at his house. And then he shot John Britton.”

In a recent HBO documentary, Soldiers in the Army of God, there is footage of Paul Hill at a press conference following his arrest. “The Lord wanted me to shoot the abortionist,” he states with a chilling smile.

Months later, another anti-abortionist, John Salvi, killed five people outside of two Brookline, Mass. abortion clinics and later traveled to Norfolk and fired shots at the Hillcrest Clinic before he was apprehended (he later committed suicide). When Donald Spitz’s phone number was found among Salvi’s effects, the FBI began keeping the reverend on a watch list. “They started looking for conspiracies,” Spitz maintains. “Janet Reno was doing it. It had to do with my beliefs, my associations, my public statements... a combination of it all.”

The associations with Salvi spurred pro-life organizations to issue a strong rebuke to Spitz. “We have been informed that you plan to come to Massachusetts for the John Salvi trial,” Madeline McComish of Massachusetts Citizens for Life wrote to the minister. “Your public statements on the acceptability of violence do not represent the views of the pro-life movement—rather, they are counter to everything that the pro-life movement represents ... you are not welcome in Massachusetts.”

Spitz was later suspected of harboring Clayton Waggoner, who sent fake anthrax letters to abortion clinics. “He wasn’t involved in the letters, but Waggoner called him while on the lam,” Mark Potok says. “He thought Spitz was a kindred soul.” The reverend has also championed and published the writings of Eric Rudolph, the Olympic Park bomber, and offered up a forum to other imprisoned offenders who have committed violence in the name of “saving the babies.”

Outside of his own website, he’s also something of a virtual cheerleader for violence. “I wish Francis Grady had burned down that babykilling abortion clinic,” he commented online to a TRN news report on the bombing of a Wisconsin Planned Parenthood office in April. Another clinic attack in May, this time in Georgia, prompted Spitz to comment on the website of the East Cobb Patch that “it’s a great thing for Cobb County.”

“He was tossed out of Operation Rescue because he justified the killing of others,” Potok reminds. “The reality is that he is so vicious and so guttural in his hatred that he is, in fact, a real embarrassment to those who oppose abortion, including some very hardline people.”

Victoria Cobb from the pro-life Family Foundation says she can’t comment on Spitz and his ongoing crusade. Olivia Gans- Turner from the Virginia Society for Human Life did not return phone calls.

Many people, on both sides of the abortion issue, discount Donald Spitz as a crackpot and a hanger-on. But could he, and his ideas about justifiable murder, actually be inching toward legitimacy?

The minister has often been the voice of the pro-life movement on local TV reports. (“They have not been regulated the way they should be regulated,” he told WAVY TV-10 about Virginia’s new women’s clinic regulations. “They’ve been getting away with murder ... literally murder.”) Meanwhile, the ideas he espouses that seem abhorrent to many have nearly become law in parts of the nation. Last year in South Dakota, a bill was proposed that would have charged abortion providers in that state with murder, punishable by death—a proposal not too far removed from the tenets of the Army of God.