Michael Bray

Author of A Time To Kill

Remembering the Harford County Detention Center

Michael Bray
August, 2008

Remembering the Harford County Detention Center

On the first of August, Jack Ames and seventeen other Christians were arrested holding signs along a Maryland state highway. One might wonder: What else did they do? Or what kind of signs were they?

Yes, there were pictures of something many people of this generation don’t like to see: dead babies. Not babies who died by some accidental tragedy; babies who died at the hands of their mothers with ─ sometimes ─ the support, even urging, of fathers, friends and relatives. Jack Ames’s Defend Life has been exposing abortion and doing Face the Truth tours for many years.

There are people who just don’t like the truth because this truth points a finger at a lot of hard hearts. It is not that the sign carriers make any accusations against the passersby. It is the message itself which penetrates some of those hard hearts. It melts some to repentance, but others it hardens all the more.

The truth tellers remained in jail overnight. “They were not told what they were being arrested for, nor were they read their rights during arrest,” said their leader. Jack Ames has been on the street with this message for three decades and has seen a lot. I remember him in 1985 as he stood outside the courtroom where I was being tried on various charges pertaining to the destruction of seven abortion facilities in Maryland, D.C., Delaware, and Virgina. Ames has never shied away from the truth, no matter how unpopular it was, and on the occasion of my trial, he carried his anti-abortion signs, alone, to draw attention to the great atrocity ─ the direct cause for the radical action for which I was being prosecuted.

The charges ─ loitering, failure to obey a lawful order, and disorderly conduct ─ were dropped within two weeks by Harford County’s State Attorney Joe Cassilly. At the time of the arrest, reported the Christian News Wire (August 3), “One of the women who participated in the tour overheard a police radio conversation where an unknown person told the troopers to make the arrests and that they would ‘figure out later’ what charges would be filed.”

Hmm. Irrational behavior abounds high where there is unspeakable sin and guilt. When citizens try to cover up the bloodshed, they behave foolishly. There is an intense desire to suppress the truth, to silence those who speak it. A lawsuit is in the offing, some have speculated. Must have been some strong emotions driving the command to get those people off the street.

I remember sitting there in the same Harford County Detention Center December of 1986. I was there for a week or two in connection with the reversal of my conviction after having been locked up for a year and a half in federal prison in New York. It was good to be closer to my family in Maryland and I had hopes of getting out and being with my family for Christmas. It was there that I engaged in more fasting and prayer than any other time in memory. And there my co-pastor visited me with the bread and wine of the Supper which remained from the gathering of the Church on the Lord’s Day.

Twenty-two years later when Jack Ames and his company of Face the Truth demonstrators were jailed in the same place. The Christian News Wire reported that the men and women, though held in two separate cells, could hear each other. “They passed the hours joining together in singing Christian hymns.” I take heart in the fact that the Truth will prevail. And I am glad to hear the good news of the continuing witness of Jack Ames and Defend Life.

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