In Contempt of Courts
The Schiavo case remains the flashpoint for the right. That was apparent at a Thursday evening banquet honoring the lead attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, David Gibbs. After a breathless introduction from Peroutka, who called the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube "an act of terror," Gibbs confidently strode to the lectern while a crowd of about 100 regaled him with a thunderous standing ovation. Baby-faced, with his hair molded tightly against his scalp and clad in a well-tailored navy blue suit, Gibbs maintained a cool disposition during his speech, presenting a sharp visual contrast to the wildly gesticulating, bedraggled figures who held the microphone throughout most of the conference. But Gibbs's impeccable appearance and measured tone were not enough to mask the lurid nature of his speech.
First, Gibbs suggested that Schiavo fell into a persistent vegetative state not because of an eating disorder but as the result of "some form of strangulation or abuse at the hands of her husband, possibly." Then, Gibbs asserted that after Schiavo's parents were awarded millions of dollars by the state to provide for her care, Michael Schiavo "began moving against the family to kill his wife." These claims, however, did not hold up in court because, as Gibbs explained, "a judge that never went to see [Schiavo] was the judge who made the decision that her life did not matter."
As members of the audience gasped, Gibbs painted a vivid portrait of Schiavo in her hospital bed. "Terri Schiavo was as alive as anyone you see sitting here," he said. "She liked my voice. It was loud and deep and she would roll over and try to talk back." But after Judge Greer "literally ordered her barbaric death," everything changed.
Gibbs described his visit to Schiavo's hospital room after her feeding tube had been removed. Schiavo lay in bed "with her eyes sunken deep in her head...she was skeletal," Gibbs recounted. "Then she turned to her mother suddenly, like she wanted to speak, and she just started sobbing." By now, members of the audience were crying.
As soon as he left the stage, one of the event's planners asked all the men in the room to get down on the floor and pray. With no other choice, I moved my plastic-upholstered chair aside, took to my hands and knees and listened as plaintive voices arose all around me with prayers for Schiavo's parents and maledictions against judicial tyranny. A saccharine version of Pachelbel's Canon emanating from the player piano in the hotel lobby seeped through the banquet hall's open doors, suffusing the ceremony with a dreamlike atmosphere. When I finally dared to look up from the ground, I realized that my head was only inches from an enormous posterior belonging to William Dannemeyer, the former congressman who once issued a letter to his colleagues listing twenty-four people with some connection to Bill Clinton who died "under other than natural circumstances."
As the conference attendees filed out of the banquet hall and into the rain-flecked night, mostly silent except for the few who were still sobbing, they seemed prepared to do anything--absolutely anything--against judges. "I want to impale them!" as Michael Schwartz told me.
"This isn't Colombia. This isn't drug lords terrorizing the judiciary. It's America," Florida Judge George Greer declared recently. Greer remains under police guard.
On Monday, April 11, at Senator Frist's invitation, David Barton will lead him and other senators on an evening tour of the Capitol, offering "a fresh perspective on our nation's religious heritage."