UPDATE: my mistake. This incident occurred last year in 2008. I’ve edited the text below accordingly. My point in highlighting it is twofold: 1. to illustrate that domestic terrorism is a real concern, and 2. that its not just muslims that have to worry about extremism in their communities (though muslims do have to be vigilant, too like everyone else).
The murder of George Tiller isn’t an isolated example of a domestic terrorist act on American soil – here’s an example from last year, a shooting in a Unitarian church, by a man who listed among his motivation for the attack his “hatred of liberals”:
Jim D. Adkisson, 58, has been charged with first-degree murder in the Sunday shooting at a Knoxville, Tenn., Unitarian church that left two people dead and five injured. Police said he acted alone.
“It appears that what brought him to this horrible event was his lack of being able to obtain a job, his frustration over that, and his stated hatred for the liberal movement,” Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said at a press conference Monday.
Kemper said the gunman shouted before he opened fire.
“It was hateful words. He was saying hateful things,” she said, but refused to elaborate.
Owen said authorities believe the suspect had gone to the Unitarian church because of “some publicity in the recent past regarding its liberal stance on things.”
The church – like many other Unitarian Universalist churches – promotes progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women and gays. The Knoxville congregation has provided sanctuary for political refugees, fed the homeless and founded a chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, according to its Web site.
Unitarians have roots in a movement that rejected Puritan orthodoxy in New England. Although the outlook and beliefs of individual Unitarian churches can vary dramatically, most congregations retain a deep commitment to social justice, which has led them to embrace liberal positions over the years. Unitarians were among the first to ordain women, support the civil rights movement and back gay rights.
Karen Massey, who lived two houses from Adkisson’s home, told the Knoxville News Sentinel of a lengthy conversation she had with Adkisson a couple years ago after she told him her daughter had just graduated from Johnson Bible College. She said she ended up having to explain to him that she was a Christian.
“He almost turned angry,” she told the newspaper. “He seemed to get angry at that. He said that everything in the Bible contradicts itself if you read it.”
Neighbors described Adkisson as a friendly man who would often work on his motorcycle outside and go on long weekend rides.
But police said Monday that the letter left by Adkisson in his vehicle detailed his inability to find a mechanical engineering job, which he blamed on liberals and gays.
“He did express that frustration that the liberal movement was getting more jobs,” Owen said.
One of the Unitarians killed, Greg McKendry, stood in front of Adkisson and took the shotgun blast to protect the children. This case got nowehere near as much attention as the Tiller murder, but in many ways it was just as significant a marker for the long-running culture war being waged against mainstream America by domestic, religiously-motivated terrorists.
Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Conservatives need to step up and start policing their own communities for this sort of violent extremism. It’s been an ongoing problem since Clinton and is only going to get worse in the Obama era.