Priest in clinic attack gets support from abortion foes

Monday, October 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Dozens of abortion protesters at an annual rally Sunday said they support the devotion – if not the alleged actions – of a Catholic priest accused of crashing into an abortion clinic here and chopping away at the building with an ax.

"I don't agree with his methods, but I appreciate his heart," said the Rev. David Broom, 25. He carried a sign that said "Adoption: The loving option" and joined a human chain of about 1,000 protesters outside a Catholic church forming the shape of a cross.

The rally at Holy Family Church in Rockford had been scheduled long before Saturday's attack. Amid the singing, people could be heard along the chain talking about the Rev. John Earl, 32, who is charged with burglary and felony criminal damage to property for the attack Saturday morning at the Northern Illinois Women's Center. He was freed after posting $10,000 bail.

The priest was stopped inside the building by its owner, who fired two shotgun blasts to scare him. The clinic was closed, and there were no injuries.

"It's hard to support those kinds of actions when you stand for life, but we definitely do support him in standing up for life," said Jeff O'Hara, a rallygoer.

Police haven't disclosed a possible motive. It came two days after government approval of the RU-486 abortion pill and was at the office of Dr. Richard Ragsdale, who successfully challenged Illinois abortion laws in the 1980s.

The Diocese of Rockford said the priest's activities have been restricted while it investigates the allegations. A message left at the church, St. Patrick's Church, was not returned.

Gay Bruhn, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for Women, said Sunday that the church and those who support people associated with violent acts are hypocritical. "We've had some victories and some losses, but we've never driven a car into a building," she said.