Internet service provider pulls plug on Nuremberg Files
Editor’s note: Earlier reports of a judgment of $107 million against anti-abortion activists were later corrected to $109 million. That change has been made in this and other stories.
The controversial Nuremberg Files Web site, which played a prominent role in this week’s $109 million federal jury verdict in Portland, Ore., against anti-abortion activists, has been shut down by its Internet service provider — not by a federal district court.
Neal Horsley, who operated the Web site, said in a news release today that at approximately 6 p.m. yesterday christiangallery.com was “knocked off line without prior notice by MindSpring,” an Atlanta-based Internet service provider.
According to Horsley, MindSpring representative Harry Smoak said the Web site was terminated for violating the provider’s appropriate-use policy for “threatening and harassing language.”
Smoak, the company’s manager of the appropriate use-policy, today confirmed that the site had been shut down but would not comment on the exact conversation he had with the Web site operators. “I can confirm that the Web site was terminated late yesterday afternoon for violations of the appropriate-use policy,” he told freedomforum.org.
“This is business as usual,” Smoak said. “We terminate Web sites all the time for violating our policy which is available online for all to see.”
The appropriate-use policy provides that “threats of bodily harm or destruction of property are always prohibited.”
Horsley reacted to MindSpring’s decision in a news release: “The Creator’s Rights Party owns the URL christiangallery.com. We are presently searching for a bolder and more principled ISP to host the Nuremberg Files. We feel privileged to take each and every lick and setback as they come, because the challenges only strengthen us in our resolve to present the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about legalized abortion.”
Horsley was not a defendant in the lawsuit decided on Feb. 2 by a Portland jury. Planned Parenthood and several doctors filed suit in October 1995 against the American Coalition of Life Activists, Advocates for Life Ministries and 12 individual anti-abortion activists. The lawsuit was prompted by anti-abortion activists’ “wanted” posters that accused doctors who perform abortions of “crimes against humanity.”
Roger Evans, director of litigation for Planned Parenthood, told freedomforum.org that “we filed the lawsuit because of the wanted posters and the pattern of violence that followed the distribution of such posters.
“These posters were threats, not protected speech,” said Evans.
Explaining why Horsley was not a defendant in Planned Parenthood v. American Coalition of Life Activists, Evans said that it was simply “too late” to add him to the case because the Web site was not posed until 1997, long after the suit had been filed.
Plaintiffs in the case, however, pointed to the Nuremberg Files as a tool through which anti-abortion activists could spread their thinly veiled threats. The Web site listed hundreds of abortion doctors and invited readers to send in doctors’ addresses, license plate numbers and the names of their children. When doctors were killed, their names were crossed off.
Evans said the Web site became an issue in part because it was originally identified as a project of the American Coalition of Life Activists. The first page of the Nuremberg Files stated that “the American Coalition of Life Activists is cooperating in collecting dossiers on abortionists in anticipation that one day we may be able to hold them on trial for crimes against humanity.”
“Though there is conflicting testimony and the details are not exact, somehow ACLA linked up Horsley and provided the ideas and information to him,” Evans said.
On Feb. 3, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the anti-abortion activists from “publishing, republishing, reproducing and/or distributing anywhere” the “Deadly Dozen List,” the “Dr. Robert Crist poster” — which identified Crist as “a notorious Kansas City abortionist” — and the Nuremberg Files.
Evans says that the motion “does not directly preclude” Horsley from doing what he wants with the Web site. “It may give him pause because we might be able to show that he acted in concert with the defendants,” Evans said.
However, Horsley has indicated that he will not pull the Web site.
Meanwhile, defendants in the Planned Parenthood suit decried the $109 million jury verdict as a draconian assault on political free-speech rights. The jury found the anti-abortion activists had violated two federal laws, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
At least two defendants have spoken out against the verdict.
“I have the utmost concern that this case be overturned on appeal for the sake of anyone who wants to become actively involved in political speech,” said Andrew Burnett, founder of American Coalition of Life Activists and Advocates for Life Ministries.
“Because the allegations in this case were so vague and contrived, if it holds up on appeal, it will leave advocates of any stripe unaware of whether normal free-speech rights will be interpreted as a threat,” Burnett told freedomforum.org.
“There will be ramifications from this stunning jury verdict on virtually any other advocacy group,” Burnett said. “Practically all advocacy groups engage in speech that someone could interpret as being threatening.”
Evans called such comments “ridiculous.”
“No one can claim that this is classic political advocacy because there are laws and court decisions which make clear that placing people in fear of their lives is not protected speech,” Evans said.
Burnett said the judge and jury “transformed our free-speech rights into threats.” He called the plaintiffs’ characterizations of the “wanted” posters and list of abortion doctors as a hit list “false.”
“We are peaceful protesters, not terrorists,” he said.
Defendant Michael Bray, who did not attend the trial, reacted to the verdict with much stronger language, saying in a news release that the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones is “a Roe (Roe v. Wade) lackey walking lock step in line with the Reich.”
Bray expressed similar sentiments in a news release about the jurors: “The other judges (the jurors), as citizens remind one of the good citizens of Germany during the WW II. They were led about by the authorities who permitted the slaughter of innocents. Today we decry those ‘good Germans’ who submitted to the laws of the land without resisting a holocaust. So these jurors dutifully obeyed all the unjust directions of the judge without looking at the underlying evil which the judge was covering up.”
Bray, who served four years in prison in the 1980s for playing a part in destroying seven abortion facilities, said the speech at issue in the Oregon case was political speech — and therefore speech protected by the First Amendment. “It was absolutely political speech,” he told freedomforum.org. “This was not a normal type of threat; there was no imminence. All you had on the Web site and the fliers was a dramatic way of saying that abortion is a murder.
“Political protesters use all kinds of dramatic means of protest and activists use all kinds of posters with strong messages,” Bray said.
Bray compared the anti-abortion advocacy he and the other defendants engaged in to that of abolitionists who were punished for inciting slaves into rebellion.
“The jury was led down a road in which they were not allowed to see the whole context,” Bray said. “What the judge and jury ignored were dead babies.”
Bray acknowledged that marking through the names of abortion doctors who had been killed and shading the names of those who had been injured was “a little tougher question.”
“However, this was not done by the defendants,” Bray said. “The person who did this was not even a defendant in the case. Furthermore, this was not a hit list; the purpose of the Nuremberg Files was simply to gather information for future prosecutions.”
Evans responded to Bray and Burnett’s claims of free-speech protection by citing the jury’s decision. “The punitive-damages award speaks volumes for what was the underlying fact in the case — that the defendants issued these posters because they wanted to place doctors in fear for their lives.”
Evans said that he expected the judge to issue a ruling on the preliminary injunction motion in the “next week or two.”