Is the Reverend Michael Bray a man of the cloth, a terrorist, or both? Bray is a Lutheran minister, a long-time passionate opponent of abortion, and a convicted abortion clinic bomber. 60 Minutes II Correspondent Dan Rather reports on a man who considers any action justifiable if it will further the anti-abortion cause. Even murder.
Bray believes his followers have a God-given right to kill doctors and nurses who perform abortions. Federal authorities want to know if he is part of a nationwide conspiracy: a network of underground zealots who will do anything to stop a medical procedure they are convinced violates God's law.
"If we are to affirm, as I do, that the children in the womb who are killed at abortion facilities are in fact children, if these are children, then action taken to defend them is justifiable and cannot be condemned," argues Bray.
Bray approves of the tactics used by Eric Rudolph, a fugitive who is suspected of bombing a clinic near Atlanta. One of the most wanted men in America, Rudolph has managed so far to avoid arrest. Authorities say he is also responsible for the bombing of an Alabama clinic, which killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. They have been searching for him for months in the mountains of North Carolina.
His annual banquet, usually closed to outsiders, demonstrated his large following as guests honored clinic bombers and bid on Eric Rudolph souvenirs.
Among the items on the auction block: two bumper stickers which say "Run Rudolph, Run," a Rudolph tee-shirt, and a sweatshirt that the auctioneer suggested might have been worn by the wanted man himself.
"To the extent that if he's looked at as a symbol of anti-abortion activities, which is where he is mostly looked at, rather than condemn him, we'll approve him," says Bray.
Bray has served nearly four years in prison for conspiracy in ten anti-abortion bombings. He says he has never killed anyone, but he admits that he approves of the ambush sniper killing of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian in his home in western New York last October.
"I can't find any way to condemn that," Bray says. "I'm sorry he's dead. I'm sorry he's no longer fathering his children and husbanding his wife. But I have to keep my mind focused on the fact hat he's also not killing children any more. And that I'm glad of."
Bray's wife is just as committed to the anti-abortion cause. They named one of their ten children after an abortion clinic bomber. Bray has written a book explaining why he thinks the Bible justifies the killing of abortion doctors, and he has contributed a militant anti-abortion newsletter to a Web site. That site also put out the pictures, names, and addresses of abortion doctors. Bray's opponents say it looked like a wanted poster.
Bray has a small congregation that gathers every Sunday in his hometown of Bowie, Maryland. He is remembered there as an Eagle Scout and a state wresling champion. After high school, he won a place at the Naval Academy but flunked out his first year. He spent five years at a seminary in Denver, and then began protesting outside abortion clinics as an activist.
Convicted of blowing up abortion facilities in 1984 and 1985, Michael Bray makes no comment, refusing to deny the accusation.
"Michael Bray is a very dangerous man," says Vicki Saporta, head of the National Abortion Federation, an abortion rights lobbying group. Her headquarters was bombed in 1984, in an attack linked to Bray.
"He has a following," Saporta continues. "He encourages those followers to commit acts of murder. And seven people have lost their lives since 1993 as a result of anti-abortion terrorism. We're dealing with domestic terrorists. We don't know when they'll attack, where they'll attack, by what method."
CBS News has learned that Bray is under surveillance by law enforcement. Saporta says Bray is at the hub of the network of the anti-choice extremists who are advocating murdering providers. His home is a gathering place for some of these individuals. Officials have seen many of those militant abortion opponents going in and out of Bray's house.
"I consider blowing up a place where babies are killed a justifiable act," Bray says.
for more features.