An out-of-state anti-abortion group is staging what it hopes will be the biggest reunion yet of the “Summer of Mercy,” the six-week-long protest that resulted in thousands of arrests in 1991 in Wichita.
Operation Save America, a fundamentalist Christian group based in Waco, Texas, organized “Summer of Justice,” its name for the 25th anniversary protest. The group lists on its website the week’s planned events, including a Voice of Thunder March in downtown Wichita on Friday and a Wednesday night speech about why Roe v. Wade is legal fiction.
The group that organized the original “Summer of Mercy” is distancing itself from this protest. Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, says he will not participate and has concerns about the organization’s extremism. He noted that one of the speakers for the Wichita rally had signed a statement saying that killing an abortion doctor is justifiable homicide.
Rusty Thomas, director of Operation Save America, has led the planning for “Summer of Justice” in Wichita.
He traveled from Florida to Wichita 25 years ago to take part in the “Summer of Mercy.”
“I pray what God began in 1991, he’s going to complete in 2016,” Thomas said about his goal to end abortions.
Thomas said he’s optimistic that abortions could end in Wichita this year because of prayers leading up to the “Summer of Justice.”
“I’ve been at this for close to three decades, and there has been more prayer and intercession” leading up to this, he said, “than any time or any event that I can personally recall. And I think that’s significant, I truly do.”
“Imagine somebody praying for 60 days straight without stopping – that’s about the amount of prayer that’s coming into Wichita for the ‘Summer of Justice.’ Just hundreds and hundreds of hours logged.”
He said religious groups and individuals document their prayer hours for “Summer of Justice.”
That’s the main preparation for the week – prayer, he said. Practical preparations came second.
Overall, the week’s schedule includes “street activities” in the morning, youth classes in the afternoon and rallies with various speakers each evening.
Thomas does not describe the activities as protesting. Instead, he describes them as ministering and as “the church being at the gates of hell. We pray, we praise, and we proclaim the Gospel.”
According to the group’s website, participants will divide into seven “Word in Warfare teams” to protest at several locations around Wichita. The website lists the teams as follows: two to four overpass teams, two display teams, two teams ministering at Planned Parenthood and Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center and a campus/truth tour team.
The evening rallies at the group’s host church, World of Life Church, 3811 N. Meridian, Thomas said, “are going to be really important meetings.”
He described the goal for “Summer of Justice” as twofold: First, to demonstrate outside abortion clinics with the hope of persuading women to not have an abortion. Second, to call on politicians to “do their duty before God and before the Constitution to defend the life of the preborn and end this Holocaust in Wichita, Kansas and beyond.”
Not everyone in the anti-abortion movement agrees with the event.
Kansans for Life, the main anti-abortion group in the state, and Operation Rescue, an anti-abortion group based in Wichita, are not participating in the “Summer of Justice.”
Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said he doesn’t support some of the organization’s beliefs.
“The original “Summer of Mercy” was ecumenical,” Newman said. “It was inclusive. It was focused on repentance and faith in Jesus and the babies. I just don’t see that with the group” organizing “Summer of Justice.”
Operation Save America was formed in the 1990s, after organizers broke away from Operation Rescue.
Newman said organizers had not reached out to him to join the week of events. He said the group doesn’t have the extent of support garnered in the original “Summer of Mercy,” “and I believe that’s due to their extremism.”
Newman pointed to Matt Trewhella, a pastor from Wisconsin who is scheduled to speak during the “Summer of Justice.”
Trewhella “praised the murder of (Wichita abortion doctor) George Tiller, and for that reason alone, I want nothing to do with it,” Newman said. “The group has also been associated with burning Qurans and picketing homosexual gay bars. That’s something Operation Rescue has never been a part of, nor does it want to be.”
Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, said she wasn’t very familiar with Operation Save America.
“As supportive as we were of the ‘Summer of Mercy,’ our main focus has always been attempting to solve this problem through legitimate means,” she said.
Children in the movement
Each afternoon, the group will teach children and youth to have a biblical worldview about sex, abortion and marriage. That will culminate July 22 when children “lead the charge at the South Wind abortion mill,” Thomas said.
He said some parents teach their children what not to do, but not enough about what they should do. Having children take charge for a day at “Summer of Justice” moves them from “a defensive posture,” he said.
“Evil loses its power over their souls when they go on the offensive against it,” Thomas said.
“In other words, if you’re passively in a defensive posture when it comes to evil, most likely you’re going to cave and you’re going to give in to it, and it’s going to bring harmful effects into your life. But when you’re on the offense against it, it loses its power over your soul.”
Thomas said he has 13 children and raised them all with these teachings. About their life views on abortion, sex and marriage, he said, “I’m not proclaiming that we’re perfect.”
“I will say not all of them have gone as far as I’ve gone, because they’re younger and have less life experience, but we have trained them.”
Separation of church and state
Thomas said that when it comes down to it, he reports to laws from God before laws made by humans, as instructed in the Bible.
He went on to describe constitutional morality as “magic fairy dust” when used to justify abortions and gay marriage. Although the Bible says to obey laws, he said he obeys God in instances where religion and man-made laws conflict.
But the issue is more than simply choosing, as an individual, to not receive an abortion or partake in gay marriage, he said.
“We have taken an individual sin called abortion and we’ve nationalized it,” he said.
If abortion becomes illegal, he said, it will still occur around the country but will become an individual sin rather than a national sin.
“Either abortion ends and other sexual immoralities end, or America as we know it ends,” he said. “The writing is on the wall.”
“We are living in a world where we live for sex, will kill for sex and will die for sex.”