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Randall Terry Censured By Church

By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 12, 2000; Page C01

Randall Terry, who became famous waving pictures of fetuses and chaining himself to hospital beds as founder of the militant antiabortion group Operation Rescue, is now being compared to President Clinton. At Clinton's worst moment. And by Terry's own pastor, no less.

Three months ago, the Landmark Church in Binghamton, N.Y., where Terry has been a member for 15 years, issued a censure letter. In modern church terms, that's the equivalent of a Scarlet Letter, meant as a deliberate public shaming after all private pleading has failed.

"Many of his longtime friends . . . are shocked and bewildered that a man who has traveled the country pleading with Christian people to think and act biblically is now thinking and acting so anti-biblically," writes pastor Daniel J. Little in the letter, which was posted this week on the Web site of Operation Save America, the new name for Operation Rescue.

The letter then accuses Terry, 41, of leaving his wife, Cindy, and their two children as a first step to end their "Christian marriage" and a "pattern of repeated and sinful relationships and conversations with both single and married women."

Terry calls the charges "absolute nonsense, insanity."

In a letter responding to the censure, Terry accuses Little of violating a "confidential pastoral/parishioner relationship" and calls the censure letter "invalid."

"Let me just say this," Terry said in an interview yesterday. "My marriage problems are personal, painful and private." He admits he and his wife have separated, and that the marriage is in "crisis."

As for the other women: "The truth is this: Mr. Terry has asserted he has only had sex with his wife," says a different letter signed by four other pastors defending Terry.

That's where the Clinton part comes in: "That's like saying, 'I did not have sex with that woman,' " said Little, referring to Clinton's famous denial of an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. "Both Terry and I know what the accusation is referring to."

The ironies of Terry finding himself in such a position are even more pointed now. His latest incarnation is founder of Loyal Opposition, a new group dedicated to preserving the sanctity of traditional marriage. To that end, he's set up shop in Vermont to lobby the legislature not to allow gay marriage.

In his 1995 book, "The Judgment of God," Terry wrote, "We have become a sex crazed society. Women are viewed as sex toys to be used and discarded by vile, pathetic males (I shall not call them men); families are destroyed as a father vents his mid life crisis by abandoning his wife for a 'younger, prettier model,' homosexuals and lesbians are no longer content to secretly live in sin, but now want to glorify their perversions."

Previously, he pioneered militant antiabortion tactics, shutting down dozens of clinics around the country. Wherever he went he championed muscular biblical literalism. A man's duty, he wrote in his most famous pamphlet, was to roam the country "slaying dragons" for Christ.

Terry ran for Congress as a Republican in New York in 1998 as one of six "righteous men," the "Patrick Henry men" as he liked to call them, campaigning on a family values platform. He was the only one of the six to get a rare letter of support from religious broadcaster James Dobson, the equivalent, in his evangelical circles, of an endorsement from the pope. They all lost, but they lost defending their principles.

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© 2000 The Washington Post Company

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