An Arresting Moment
Five years ago, I wrote of the horror that Aaron Wolf and I experienced as we spent a morning photographing the old Turner School here in Rockford. Built in 1898, the massive brick-and-stone structure was closed 80 years later by a school board attempting in vain to avoid a lawsuit over busing. Today, little effort is being made to maintain the exterior, and weeds grow up in the lawn out front and the former playground in back. Four or five days out of every week, passersby might assume that the building is still shuttered.
Would that it were. Instead, for the last quarter of a century, it has been the home of the Northern Illinois Women’s Clinic—the antiseptic-sounding name for Rockford’s only abortuary.
It has another name, too. The building’s current owner, Wayne Webster, dubbed it “Fort Turner,” but its walls offer no protection—certainly not to the children whose lives end there, but neither to the mothers who may spend the rest of their lives in regret over having sacrificed their daughters on the altar of “women’s rights,” nor to the fathers who pay for the ritual murder of their sons.
And if the antics of Wayne Webster over the years—dressing up like the devil to harass pro-lifers praying the rosary on the sidewalk outside the clinic; trying to drown out their prayers by shouting obscenities over loudspeakers he has mounted on the exterior walls; hanging rubber chickens (including one mounted on a crucifix) and obscene signs and pictures in the windows—are any indication, the walls of Fort Turner (where Webster also lives) have not protected him from spiritual attack. But then demons, like vampires, are always looking for an invitation to enter in, and they may well have taken up residence inside Fort Turner when the first abortion was performed there a quarter-century ago.
As if providing a location for an average of 35 murders each week is not enough, over the years Webster has hung signs in the windows of Fort Turner mocking the Christian beliefs of the pro-lifers: “Jesus loves these braindead a—holes,” “These Bible-thumpers suffer from lack-o-nookie,” “God bless these horny old sweat-hogs,” “NIWC 50,000, JC 50” (that is, by the time the abortuary reached 50,000 children killed, Jesus Christ had saved only 50). But Webster’s latest outrage crossed from mockery into blasphemy, when, in late summer, he hung up a sign with the inscription “Even Jesus Hates You,” under an image of Christ extending the middle finger of His right hand.
The Rockford Pro-Life Initiative, a coalition of pro-life activists founded in 2008 to “eliminate abortion in the Rockford area through Christian, non-confrontational means,” including “Prayer, Fasting, Education and Personal Sacrifice,” asked Rockford police to enforce city ordinances against the offensive use of property by ordering Webster to remove the image. When a police sergeant refused, saying that the sign was not offensive, a veteran pro-life activist, Kevin Rilott, received permission to address the Rockford City Council. Pro-lifers showed up at the meeting with small devotional pictures of Christ, and Rilott implored the council to take action—to no avail.
The Rockford ordinances state that it is illegal to “disturb or destroy the peace of the neighborhood in which such building or premises are situated.” While it is by no means certain that a court would agree that Webster’s blasphemous sign violates the ordinances, many of his other actions—especially the blasting of rock music and the shouting of obscenities over the loudspeakers mounted on the outside of Fort Turner—clearly do. Yet there is no record of Webster or the clinic being issued a citation.
A few weeks after Webster hung the “Even Jesus Hates You” sign, Rilott was praying outside of Fort Turner, in the same spot where he has stood for a decade. Webster’s security guard asked him to move, and when Rilott refused, he called in the police. An officer on the scene asked Rilott to pick up a large painting of Christ that he had propped up next to him; when Rilott refused, the officer called in the same police sergeant who had refused to take action on Webster’s sign. After ordering the pro-life protesters to turn off their video cameras, the sergeant confiscated the painting on the grounds that it was “unattended” and threw it in the back of his squad car.
So, pictures of Our Lord giving the finger to faithful Christians are acceptable; “unattended” paintings of Christ are not. (As video footage of the incident shows, Rilott was never more than two or three feet away from the painting at any time.)
When pro-lifers use graphic images of aborted children in their protests, the media views such actions as provocation (which, in some cases, such as that of the recently murdered James Pouillon, it may well be). But you will look in vain for equivalent treatment of Webster’s blasphemy (or similar actions at abortuaries around the country).
Pro-lifers’ use of graphic images, I have argued, is counterproductive at best; but while they do not show us the truth, they at least portray reality. Webster’s sign does neither—though it may give us a glimpse into the depths of his soul and of the sleepless nights he spends guarding the gates of Hell.