Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry doesn’t believe prayer is enough to end abortion in the U.S. He believes in action. A 1981 graduate of the unaccredited Elim Bible College, in 1985 he and then-wife Cindy Dean Terry began demonstrating outside Southern Tier Women’s Services in Vestal, New York. In short order the pair escalated their protests to include a range of disruptive tactics, from blockading the building’s entrance to shouting so loudly that their taunts could be heard in the health center’s operating room.
For a short time—from the late 1980s and early 1990s—the “rescue” movement grew quickly and caused havoc at clinics throughout the country. Then, in 1994, after passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, it sputtered. Nonetheless, before it ended thousands of rescuers had been arrested, giving Terry the notoriety he continues to crave.
Indeed, in his quest for attention, Terry has proven himself to be a master of re-invention and both his personal and career lives have taken many turns. As a professional, he’s been a car salesman, a gospel and country singer, and a community organizer. He’s also morphed from fundamentalist Protestant to Roman Catholic. And now, the Tea Party activist and lifelong Republican has switched again, declaring himself a Democratic contender in 2012’s presidential race. “I don’t want to quibble with Palin, Huckabee, or Romney,” the 51-year-old told me by phone. “I want to throw body punches at Barack Obama.”
“Obama is the Massa and we’re his slave labor force,” Terry continues. “My platform respects life and liberty.”
Not surprisingly, making abortion illegal is the pivot around which Terry’s candidacy spins. At the same time, Catholic.org reports that his platform not only “affirms life, [but also] marriage between a man and a woman only.” Furthermore, his “unabashedly theocentric campaign” is deeply critical of Islam and his voice becomes noticeably louder as he describes the threat he believes Muslims pose to Western values and culture. “I’ve spent my whole life fighting against abortion, but if I had to choose between living in a Christian nation that kills its babies or a Muslim nation under Sharia law, I’d choose the former,” he told me. As for foreign policy, Terry says that he supports non-intervention. “We shouldn’t be in Iraq and Afghanistan should have been a short war of reprisal,” he says.
Terry declared his candidacy in front of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC—yes, he repeatedly likens the Nazi holocaust to abortion–and he is presently working to raise $2.5 million to run a 30-second ad during next year’s Super Bowl, complete with the kind of graphic, bloody, anti-abortion footage that just about everyone in the western world has already seen. “Legalized child killing is the greatest abomination on the face of the earth,” the Randall Terry for President website declares. His hope is that by exposing millions of football fans to grisly pictures of dismembered fetuses, people will clamor for overturning Roe, prime time be damned. “It is high time we act like [abortion] is the holocaust it is,” he blasts.
Rabbi Yehuda Levin of the Rabbinical Alliance of America and Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life are among the few anti-abortion activists in Terry’s corner. In fact, in his two-and-a-half decades on the anti-abortion frontlines Terry has garnered many detractors, people who are leery of his tendency to jump into the limelight wherever, however, and whenever possible.
Revelations about Terry’s personal foibles have also given many anti-abortion activists pause. Take what happened after Rev. Dan Little of the Landmark Church of Binghamton, New York censured, and then in 2005 expelled, Terry for ending his 19-year marriage. Despite belonging to Landmark for more than 15 years, Terry seemingly took his excommunication in stride, as if the action was simply the opening of a new door in his spiritual life. According to numerous news accounts, after being booted, Terry first checked out a charismatic Episcopal church but quickly turned to Roman Catholicism and converted in May 2006. The National Catholic Register reports that the newly divorced Terry made this move after announcing—but never explaining–that his marriage to Cindy had been “an invalid sacrament.”
Whatever his spin, it is worth noting that the long liaison between Randall and Cindy included the birth of a daughter in 1987. It also included the adoption of three young children. Nonetheless, once the dust of his first marriage had cleared, Terry wed again. Andrea Sue Kellmorgan, his former assistant—a woman 17 years his junior–became the second Mrs. Terry several years ago.
Scuttlebutt notwithstanding, Terry seems unaffected by critics and is instead focused on challenging Obama. Does he really think he has a shot? Alas, even he is not that delusional. At the same time, Terry is hoping that his candidacy will provoke what he calls a “crisis of faith for pro-life Democrats.” He intends to bring his campaign to New Hampshire, Florida, and North Carolina, and in an interview on eyeblast.tv quipped that “the Tea Party train is now on Democratic tracks.”
As for the Democratic National Committee, it’s doubtful that they’re feeling much heat from Terry’s campaign. Although the DNC did not respond to my calls or emails, one can only assume that they’re expecting a quick and complete derailment.