John Burt Eulogy
John Burt died in jail at age 76 on 19 April, 2013. The anti-abortion activist was in jail on very doubtful charges of sexual misconduct. He and his wife, Linda, had provided shelter for many years for pregnant women in need of housing. But the Burts were loved by few and despised by many for other reasons. John was not afraid to stand with those who took radical action in defense of children in the womb. He was a radical, indeed, and as such was shunned by mainstream “prolifers.”
How providential that he should die on the 20th anniversary of the Waco massacre. John, in concert with many other Americans, was highly indignant over the slaughter of 82 Americans (including 26 children), a.k.a. “Branch Davidians.” Indeed, that date marks an event which calls to mind other mass-killings of Americans by the federal government: viz. 19th-century Indian massacres, such as Wounded Knee, the Dakota Sioux War of 1862, and the Trail of Tears.
John knew what evil was. His formerly dark mind had been renewed. He had forsaken his KKK past and become a Christian. And as a Christian he would be no less zealous for following the God of grace and mercy and truth as he had the false teaching of the Klan. Fellow activist Andrew Scholberg, commenting upon Burt’s life, observed:
John Burt came under suspicion because of his association with John Brockhoeft when the latter was arrested in Pensacola, but the government apparently didn’t have enough evidence that Burt was in on Brockhoeft’s plans to charge Burt as a conspirator.
He was in the thick of things. Famed attorney in defense of anti-abortion activists Tom Brejcha of Chicago said, “I always thought of him — although I never met him — as a modern counterpart to John Brown: big, angry, and righteous, but with a soft heart for babies and moms.”
Fellow Florida activist, Pastor Ed Martin, upon hearing Burt’s passing, said, “John was a great man and loved the children. I will dedicate my baby saving efforts the next few weeks in John’s memory.”
And Scholberg says quite bluntly: “The baby killers hated John. He was a constant thorn in their side and a powerful witness for the sanctity of life in the womb. John didn’t just talk the talk. He walked the walk. And Linda continues that walk to this day as she carries on the ministry of Our Father’s House, which John founded with her.”
But it has been a long haul for Linda. Burt was imprisoned in August of 2006. On January 2, 2010 I spoke to her on the phone. Among her statements to me were the following:
He wasn’t doing anything inappropriate, but he just placed himself in a bad position.
I don’t do a jail wife very well. John never intended to go to jail. He played by the rules. He would picket and protest and suppose that they [opponents] would play by the rules. They don’t play by the rules.
It doesn’t look like he is going to get out.
I would hate to be 73 and wake up every day and expect to die there. I don’t want to live alone. I have been in this thing for 6 years . . . court battle, jail . . . house in foreclosure.
I know He has a plan but he hasn’t shared it with me. Hello God. I’m 63 years old. Hello!
He was convicted of four counts of 3 ½ years each running consecutively.
It was a malicious prosecution.
Property has been in foreclosure for two years. Appeals to the mortgage company and government have failed.
Life was hard on Linda then as it is today. But let us see where their life together began and what course it took.
Burt’s Radical Activist Biography in Summary
The following is excerpted from Tiller’s Unheeded Warning: The Shelley Shannon Story (2009) by Michael and Jayne Bray:
Converted to Christianity as an adult, he had been a Marine, a Klansman, a drunkard, and a divorcé. He became a Christian in 1976, married to a Christian woman, Linda, and involved himself in active opposition to abortion in 1981. By 1983 he was opposing abortion on two fronts: he founded a home for unwed mothers, Our Father’s House, and organized pickets at the local abortuary, The Ladies Center. In March, fourteen picketers were arrested and charged with “trespassing.” Burt’s own Brownsville Assembly of God along with other AOG churches in the area began to arouse the people from their involvement in the national slumber. The showing of Silent Scream in Pensacola helped inform viewers and galvanize them to action. Among those awakened were two twenty-one-year-old men from First Assembly of God, Matthew Goldsby and James Simmons along with their mates – a fiancée and a wife. They conducted the “Christmas bombings” in 1984 of three Pensacola abortuaries, for a $500,000 divestment. At the trial opening of 15 April, 1985, defense attorney Thomas Monaghan told the jury that the men were “knights in shining armor” saving children from death and suggested that “perhaps God is speaking to America.” Federal Prosecutor Thomas Dillard called the men “terrorists.”
During the trial, John Burt refused to abandon the men whom he judged to be faithful martyrs. He had never seen them before their national exposure, but he knew they had acted courageously and righteously. (Goldsby’s mother had joined Burt in protests, but her son thought such efforts to be an impotent response to the “issue” of real time child slaughter.) Burt demonstrated in support of the young men outside the courthouse during the trial displaying a jar with a “dead fetus” whom he called “Baby Charlie,” a child of 18 to 20 weeks, killed by saline abortion. He hoped to show the public the truth and the reason for the use of such drastic measures by the defendants. And he hanged two local abortionists in effigy to indicate whom the law ought to be punishing: local abortionists Linda Taggert and Bo Bagenholm. Penny Lea, a country singer whom Burt had encouraged into action, organized an anti-abortion march outside The Ladies Center a month before the trial. They marched with about 4,000 protestors around one of the restored abortuaries. Imitating the story of the destruction of Jericho they prayed and blew “trumpets and shouted in unison several times, ‘Let my children go.’”
The two young knights had read the Biblical story of Gideon about the little babies being laid on the altars of Baal and how God had told Gideon to tear down the altars. They had believed that story just as they had believed the story in the Gospel of Luke about John the Baptist who, when an unborn child, leaped in his mother’s womb upon coming in close proximity to the pregnant Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:41). They called their plans to bomb the “clinics” the Gideon Project.
When the jury convicted the two and sent them off to prison, Burt continued the effort to stop the killing. He was joined by Joan Andrews and Joe Scheidler in March of 1986. A small cadre entered the abortuary during business hours and “trashed” the offices. Joan ended up with a five-year sentence, double what she would otherwise have gotten because of her refusal to co-operate with the court which required signs of remorse, deference, and cooperation, earning the sympathy and respect of many. Joe Scheidler continued advocating for the womb children, never shying away from those who used force but stopping short of defending those who maimed or terminated abortionists. Burt abided by the conditions of probation for two years which Andrews had refused.
Burt continued his anti-abortion activism and was arrested in connection with John Brockhoeft’s possession of explosives in the vicinity of The Ladies Center in 1988. Restricted by the court from abortuary oratory, he was able to continue service in other ways, especially the ministry of Our Father’s House. By 1993, he was preparing to protest a new abortuary in town operated by David Gunn. Newly in attendance in his church, the Whitefield Assembly of God, was Michael Griffin who prayed publicly for Gunn in church on March 7 before shooting him dead four days later.
In late 1992, Griffin watched the graphic abortion exposé film, The Hard Truth, in supplement to other, educational, and polemical writings. Among the many pieces of literature he read, there was one which most directly urged intervention. Burt produced a monthly newsletter to inform people of local efforts in the anti-abortion cause. The February issue contained a story (or was it a parable?) about a “prophet” who is inspired to put an end to the killing. Michael Griffin has not commented about its influence upon his deeds. It is reprinted here in part for the reader’s own consideration:
“The Prophet of Life”
He is symbolic of the pro-life movement. In particular, the men and fathers of the church of Jesus Christ . . . Strong, vigorous, well-armed spiritually, but until now hesitant and unresolved. For so long the Jesus that many Christians had imagined was a total pacifist. He would never have overturned the money-changers’ tables in the temple. Neither would he have made a scourge of cords – that would have been “too violent.” Think about this: Jesus said that man was more important to God than was the Sabbath, more important than the Temple as well. So if Jesus would become violent over the misuse of the temple, a stone building, how much more so with the abuse of an innocent unborn child, designed to be the living temple of the Holy Spirit?
Much, much more, I say. The Prophet wears a pendant bearing the numbers one and six, representing the first and sixth commandments: “I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before Me,” and “You shall not commit murder.” These are clearly the most prominent violations of God’s word committed by abortion practitioners, but they’re not the only violations. In fact, all Ten Commandments come to mind, except the Fourth, “Keep the Sabbath Day holy.” Although some abortionists work seven days a week, at least one that I know of goes to church every Sunday. He belongs to a mainline denomination that officially opposes abortion, but his priest “feels sorry” for him. His fourteen million dollar per year income is also no doubt very pitiful in his priest’s eyes. Yes, the prophet’s necklace is a weighty reminder of his task, but is nothing in comparison to the millstones that the abortionists are hanging around their own necks by harming these little ones.
The children cry, mourning for their little brothers and sisters who are slaughtered, wanting so badly for their rescuer to protect them all. With their tears, they beg the Prophet to take action before their blood, too, is added to the some three million gallons that has already been spilled from the bodies of their little friends. The River of Blood flowing past bears them witness.
All around is deep darkness, caused by the silence of so many. Silence aids the progress of darkness and it has no intent of slowing its advances, though a single shout can slow its progress and a loud rebuke can begin to cause a retreat of the darkness.
The source of the darkness, the Evil One’s temple, proudly announces it dedication to “Self.” But, obscured in the shadows, the real god of that temple shows his name. The sacrificers claim that the deeds are done for “self,” which is certainly bad enough; but some don’t realize, though many purposefully do, that the blood is spilled ultimately to please the devil: Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil, and his will shall you perform.” There is no truer statement that can be made of those who kill the innocents and of those who protect those who kill them.
Those who kill, that is the “priests” of this evil temple, are . . . holding the green close to their eyes so that they won’t see the red. But now the Prophet is seeing red. What will he do?
The guardians and lauders of the self temple . . . all march and dance triumphantly, though temporarily, around the bonfire at the base of their temple . . .
The cloud of smoke that arises vaguely forms a face. Only a moment ago that face had a diabolical grin of laughter . . . the devil laughing at the perpetrators whom he has duped and intends to take with him to the pit, laughing at the churches who are fumbling and indecisive, laughing at the helpless victimstheir lives crushed before they have the chance to see the light of day; and, worst of all, laughing at God, whose heart weeps with unbelievable pain at the death of each and every innocent child. But now the facial expression has changed, contorted, to a look of fear and uncertainty. “Who woke the Prophet?!” the face seems to say. . .
At the top of the temple rests the hideous altar overflowing with the bodies of the children. Most have been ripped apart -limbs, head, bowels – not after death; this violence was the cause of death. Some are intact bodily, killed by salt poisoning . . . or the subsequent exposure, smothering, starvation and strangulation for those who have lived through saline. The killers and their supporters count these children to be so much dung, but God has made these babies in His own image. And so they add another charge, blasphemy, to their list of offenses . . .
The Prophet strongly grasps the handle of his weapon, a sword called justice. Is the sword figurative or physical? We pray and hope that the figurative will sufficethat words will be heeded. But we remember our own history, our national beginnings. The physical sword had to be drawn at that time, drawn by Godly Christian men and fathers, not to be returned to its scabbard until freedom was secured. In truth, the Prophet hasn’t handled his weapon in some time . . . except in church. But, familiar with the sword’s use or not, the time has come, and he begins to draw it out slowly and deliberately.
His heart is broken by the suffering of the unborn children, beyond mere tears of mourning. Now the Prophet sheds a tear of fury, of righteous indignation. He stares momentarily at the river of blood racing past his feet . . . “Not even one more,” he vows, through pursed lips. The sweat breaks on his brow. He knows the Lord has sent him to stop them.
In your mercy, Lord, help us to bring an end to abortion here, rather than force you to come Yourself to end it by judgment. Amen.
One might well conclude that Burt and his newsletter influenced, even inspired, Michael Griffin. It is a fair inference whether or not Griffin would acknowledge it. (Who can know which of the many media of the Truth influences a given human action more directly than another? Perhaps he was reading Homer’s Iliad – “’Tis man’s to fight, but Heaven’s to give success.”)
To be sure, John Burt’s final years before imprisonment till death were devoted less to public protest and more to the housing of pregnant women. Whatever the truth behind his conviction for allegedly touching a girl inappropriately, we honor him for the good deeds he has done and expect to be standing with him in glory.
1 “2 Convicted of Bombings,” (Washington Post, April 25, 1985, p. A7).
2 E. Michael Jones, “America Goes on Trial in Pensacola,” Fidelity, vol. 4, no. 7 (June, 1985), p. 11.
3 Ibid., p. 18.
4 Burt denied any knowledge of the explosives but acknowledged his association with Brockhoeft who had traveled from Hebron, Kentucky and was later convicted of unsolved abortuaries bombings in Ohio.
5 The story was reprinted in part (“mildly redacted”) and published in a calendar and made available for attendants of the White Rose Banquet of the year 2000.
6 http://www.armyofgod.com/JohnBurt.html for a brief summary of the activist deeds of John Burt.