An anti-abortion activist leads her child past the group’s signs.
Counter-protesters face off with ‘Pastor Mark.’
A bible and a bullhorn.
Spirit One parishioners, including young children, hold up signs. I visited the Spirit One website, and it says that every other Wednesday they bring their young children to protests and have them march around with ballons. “There is no such thing as being too young to participate.”
Protest leader Louis Goseland argues with anti-abortion activists.
WICHITA, KS– The atmosphere around 1515 Harry Street is usually pretty subdued. There are few restaurants and shops, slightly run-down, and a few other businesses. Spirit One Christian Center is also located on that street. It is a fairly typical building itself, boxy and functional. The only thing that makes Spirit One an exceptional building is the people who occupy it, for the parishioners at Spirit One are some of the most active abortion protesters in Wichita.
On October 3 through 8, Spirit One embarked on a campaign called ‘Operation Save America. OSA is an out-growth of the well-known Operation Rescue which chose to specifically targets high-school and college students for protests and demonstrations.
During the week of OSA’s regional event in Wichita, demonstrators came to Wichita high-schools West and Southeast and distributed fliers to students arriving at school. The demonstrators broke no laws, but many in the community were still upset about OSA’s tactics and about the fact that they targeted students.
George Harper, a student at West who was present at the protest was upset.
“They were harassing students and not allowing them to leave until they took a paper. We were yelling that they don’t have a right to judge,” said Harper.
Harper also said that the protesters disrupted classes, “They were there for about an hour after school started. They had their speakers aimed at the school.”
The brochures that were distributed included graphic pictures of aborted fetuses. One brochure said, “The bible and the 10 commandments have been outlawed, illegal, made contraband, in your public school. Your Christrian rights are being denied you.”
Another brochure had to do with Mark Tiller, the controversial local doctor who specializes in abortions: “Following the shedding of their innocent blood, he then places the children he has slaughtered on his altar to burn them as an offering to his god. This makes him a priest of Satan.” Below this message is a picture that looks like it came out of Napoleon Dynamite, of a lady handing a baby to a priest. In the background is a cackling horned demon, his hands dripping with blood.
Students at West High were so upset by the protesters at their school that they planned a counter-protest to take place at the Spirit One. Louis Goseland, an editor of the school newspaper and a director of the Peace and Social Justice Center, organized and led the protest. The event took place as planned on Sunday, October 9. Goseland was pleased with the outcome.
“At least three schools that I know of– WSU, West, and Southeast have come out to protest. We printed about three hundred brochures and sent out press releases. We’re just really happy with the turnout we got,” said Goseland. Several members of the Muslim Public Affairs Council were also present.
Goseland made it clear that the protest was against hate speech and not specifically in in favor of abortion. Some of the signs bore messages such as ‘No More Gore,’ ‘Stop the Hate,’ and ‘Hate is not a family value.’
“We came because we were aware of these people at the WSU campus. They were making hate quotes against Buddhists, Jews, homosexuals– and a lot of students upset,” said Donna Sibaai, a member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
The Spirit One protesters did not carry signs; instead they had two large billboards, one with a picture of a smiling baby, and another with a gruesome picture of a fetus. They also had two large faux-stone tablets bearing the ten commandments, and between them a large bell.
“OSA brought the bell,” said a Spirit One protester, “Every twenty seconds a child is aborted, so every time we ring this bell a child is killed.”
The OSA protesters sought to explain that they were not engaging in hate speech, but merely spreading the ‘truth,’ or the word of God. A pamphlet that was distributed references more than a dozen Bible verses to support their activities.
“Buddha can’t get anyone to the Father, Chrishna can’t get anyone to the Father, not even Mohammid can get one to the Father. … Either Islam is a lie or Christianity is a lie. Both can not be true,” the pamphlet said.
“God hates things,” said Greg Hedrick, a Spirit One member, “he hates sin, but he doesn’t hate people. And I think some of the people here have got the wrong idea about what we’re about.”
As generally happens at protests, both sides at times were ‘off message.’ The counter-protesters were heard to chant “Rapist, rapist” whenever a certain man spoke. One protester said, “There’s a rapist over there that’s over there preaching.”
When asked how chanting ‘rapist’ gibed with their message of tolerance, the protester said, “He’s over there trying to preach to us the word of God, and it’s kind of hypocritic.”
OSA protesters chanted, “Necrophilia is wrong.”
The Spirit One youth that were spoken to at the protest seemed very involved in the movement. The website gives the impression that there at least four church-organized protests per month, and says that many members protest more frequently.
“Back in 1988, my dad got involved in Operation Rescue in California. In ’98 or ’99 we came in Wichita, and we’ve been doing it ever since. Every two weeks we’ve been going down to Nevada, Missouri, and at Tiller’s Clinic, and now we’re going down to Springfield,” said Isaac Yoder, who is homeschooled.
Spirit One’s website says that twice a month parishioners bring their children to abortion protests. “Children carry balloons and celebrate LIFE,” says the website, “Then they are given free lunch of pizza or something similar. There is not such a thing as being too young to participate.”
Is there such a thing as being too young?
Mark McCormick, a Local and State columnist for the Wichita Eagle quoted a mother as saying, “Several of the larger boys at school helped to hold back these people, as they kind of ganged up on one of the school buses and were making the students coming out of the bus door take these handouts. … Our kids go to school to learn, and they should have the right to enter their school, without this abuse.” The mother also pointed out that students are forced to be exposed to the protests, since they must go to school.
“My kids saw that Truth Truck with the pictures of the aborted fetuses, and they asked me what it was, and you know, what am I supposed to tell them? I just think it’s really irresponsible,” said a father at the protest.
The OSA activists wore shirts that said, “Truth is hate to those who hate the truth,” and over-all their argument was that no one is too young to know the ‘truth.’
When the protest was over, both sides had yelled, exchanged pamphlets, rung bells, quoted the Bible, and played sirens. What neither had done was listen to the other. Eventually both groups retreated from the streets and returned to their homes and churches, preparing to battle on another day.