Face the Truth Beats the Heat

For the first two years of the Pro-Life Action League’s Face the Truth Tour, a joint venture with Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, the tour was held in July and temperatures soared into the ’90’s. For 2002 we moved the tour to the last two weeks of June. But the hot weather followed us. After a cooler than normal spring and early summer, as soon as the starting date for Face the Truth rolled around, summer hit with a vengeance.

For several months before the scheduled Tour Monica Miller, director of Citizens for a Pro-Life Society, Joe and Ann Scheidler, directors of the Pro-Life Action League and Tim Murphy, special events coordinator for the League, met and carefully planned the Tour that would reach Chicago and rural Illinois in June.

Miller initially selected the twenty-seven sites, working with pro-life leaders in some of the targeted areas to choose the most effective intersections. Taking a cue from the Tours in Maryland and Pittsburgh, the planning team recruited captains from the selected sites to help promote the Tour and develop media interest. Then each member of the planning team visited several of the sites to determine which intersections worked best and where the warning signs could be effectively posted.

The first stop on the 2002 Tour was Brookfield, IL. Fifty-one Tour participants donned our new red Face the Truth 2002 T-Shirts with the message on the back, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.” There was no opposition and the first stop on the Tour was a breeze. At Bellwood, the second stop, Troy Newman and Ken Reed of Operation Rescue West joined us from Wichita, KS and Sacramento, CA respectively. The Bellwood police commander argued with Joe Scheidler about the use of graphic pictures, even though he admitted he had to uphold the pro-lifers’ first amendment right to hold the signs on the public right-of-way.

At Norridge, the 3rd stop of the day, Joe Foreman joined the Tour. Foreman, a former Operation Rescue director, is now a full-time pastor in Virginia. As the signs were being set in place someone came along and threw eggs at the poster of Jesus mourning an aborted child and at one of the graphic aborted baby pictures. It was reported to the police, but the perpetrator had driven away too quickly.

Police Chief Brings Donuts

Day two took the Tour out to Frankfort, IL, a charming community about forty miles west of Chicago. Police commander Cal Pickup, who had contacted the League office prior to the Tour, was on hand and had no problem with the way we set up the display, nor with distributing literature. Another forty-mile drive brought us to Manteno, where police Chief Rory Keiger brought out a huge box of donuts and sweet rolls for the participants in the Tour. Response was very positive in Manteno. On the police chief’s recommendation, several “tourists” went to Yanni’s Cafe, for lunch, where they were treated royally by the mother and daughter owners of the restaurant.

Bourbonnais was the last stop of the second day. At the intersection we had chosen was Olivet-Nazarene University, with a large, mostly empty parking lot. Since it is a Christian college we expected no negative reaction to using the parking lot to unload the signs. We were sadly mistaken. Almost immediately a security guard informed Tim Murphy that we would have to move the cars. At that point, Troy Newman, Ken Reed, Joe Scheidler and Joe Foreman decided to have a chat with the University president and get his O.K. for the use of the parking lot.

Christian University Not an Example of Christian Hospitality

The University president was a cautious man, very concerned about “liability issues.” In spite of the eloquent attempts of the protestant pro-life leaders and Joe Scheidler’s complaint that the Catholics have to carry the brunt of the pro-life efforts, the president persisted in his refusal to be cooperative. Joe Foreman finally compared him to Caiphas, the high priest who thought it was best to have one man die rather than jeopardize the welfare of the rest of the community. Foreman told him that he was not being asked to hold a sign, or to endorse the display, or to give a speech or be arrested. He was only being asked to donate a piece of his parking lot for an hour and a half. “You have been tested,” said Foreman, ” and you have failed the test.” Newman told him that he cared more about his “stuff” than about the thousands of unborn babies who are dying every day.

The group ended up parking in a Catholic Church parking lot around the corner from Olivet-Nazarene. There was no objection from the Catholic Church, the parish of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In fact, when Newman and Reed were leaving the site at the end of the demonstration, they noted a couple of University employees retrieving their cars from the Catholic Church parking lot.

The Bourbonnais captains did a good job of promoting the event and Fr. James Holup of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Ashkum brought several parishioners.

While Scheidler was holding a sign at Bourbonnais, a local resident approached him and said that she wanted to get a pro-life group going. The Tour was just the motivation she needed to get started. She will contact the League and start her group this fall.

Fr. Peter Joins the Tour for the Most Hostile Day

On Friday, June 21, Fr. Peter West, of Priests for Life, joined the tour. The first stop of the day, Plainfield, was relatively uneventful. Lots of literature was distributed. Reception was pretty positive. Andy and Kathy Puch from Channahon had served as captains and promoted the Plainfield site.

The next stop, however, Braidwood, IL stands out as the benchmark for hostility. One local business woman claimed to own the public sidewalk and demanded that the police put the pro-lifers in the street. The policeman informed her that they could not be standing in the street and that the public sidewalk is, in fact, public.

The owners of a bait shop on the corner of Hwy 53 and Main Street were particularly unfriendly, shouting obscenities during the entire hour-and-a-half that the Tour was in Braidwood. Many passing motorists shouted vulgarities, gave the finger and threatened the pro-lifers. One driver actually claimed to have a gun and threatened to shoot Troy Newman.

One woman, with a child in the back seat of her car, went from demonstrator to demonstrator complaining in the foulest terms that her child had to see the aborted baby pictures. But rather than get out of the area where her child was seeing the graphic pictures, she chose to keep driving around until she had complained to everyone she could find. I offered to talk to her child about the pictures and our purpose in being there, but she refused.

The police would not allow the distribution of literature, in spite of the fact that there was a stop sign at the intersection and everyone had to stop there anyway. Kathy Mieding and Julie McCreevy blitzed the grocery store parking lot instead.

Wilmington started out calmly, but turned out to be very much like Braidwood. One woman assaulted Fr. Peter, shoving his sign and yelling at him. A resident called the police because he didn’t want his children seeing the signs or talking to the demonstrators. Tim Murphy was able to defuse the situation and keep order.

The Truth Tour Two-Step

The last day of week one started out in Hammond, IN. We parked the vans in an apparently abandoned gravel lot next to a liquor store. Unfortunately the liquor store owner also owned the gravel lot and was not sympathetic with our cause. We had to move to the space behind a Taco Bell next door.

The police in Hammond were cooperative. A McDonald’s manager was angered that part of the demonstration was along the street in front of McDonald’s. The police officer informed us that we would have to keep moving to satisfy the city ordinance which stated that if two or more people assemble and block a sidewalk they must keep moving. I pointed out that we were not blocking the sidewalk and that since the signs are large if we ask people to walk while holding them, they are likely to run into someone.

I suggested to the police officer that we could define “moving” as taking a step forward and a step backward without ever moving the sign. He said that was fine and he would inform the McDonald’s manager that he had done what he could and that we were complying with the city regulations. He later said that we only had to move once in a while.

When I went into a BP station to replenish our ice supply for the ice water, the cashier said she liked my shirt. She agreed that killing children in abortion was terrible. I gave her a brochure on the Face the Truth Tour and invited her to join us any time.

Calumet City showed much support for the Tour and a local Catholic parish, Our Lady of Knock, provided a wonderful lunch buffet for the participants. The pastor, Fr. Donald Fenske, stood at the parking lot entrance and directed us as to where to park and how to get in to the parish hall for the lunch. He then went from table to table and introduced himself to the Face the Truth participants. Organizers of the lunch were Angela Kvasnica and her team from the respect life committee.

The South Holland stop went very well. Lots of literature was distributed at the busy intersection of Il Route 6 and Cottage Grove Ave. One motorist who was especially delighted to see us was the director of the area crisis pregnancy center.

Chicago Sites Very Productive

Sunday and Monday were days off for a little rest and family time. The Truth Tour resumed on Tuesday, June 25 with two stops in the City of Chicago. The first at Cermak and Ashland was a great place for the distribution of literature. The Benito Juarez Community Academy is located right at the intersection where the Tour was set up. Hundreds of students attending summer classes were given pro-life literature. Local vendors were very supportive and even took some of our literature to hand out on their own. Three pro-aborts showed up, but they were quite outnumbered by the pro-lifers.

The second Chicago site at 95th and Ashland was also great for the distribution of literature. A police officer on duty told us about a great place for lunch, The Top Notch Café. Due to rain and lightening, we cut that stop slightly short and headed for the Top Notch.

Alsip, IL, the final stop of the day, was also our largest turnout to that point at least 55 participants. Police were on hand, but did not interfere with the distribution of literature. All four quadrants of the intersection were well covered by demonstrators in the red T-shirts.

Another hot and sunny day found us in Bloomingdale, IL. Mark Kennedy, the captain for Bloomingdale helped to bring out a turnout of about fifty participants to hold signs along Gary Ave and Army Trail Road. Carol Osburne mobilized parishioners from St. Isador’s Catholic Church, and Mike and Mariann Evans helped promote the Tour in Bloomingdale. There were lots of police on hand, including plain clothes detectives, but no problems. The police were friendly and simply watched the demonstration from their various posts.

Elgin drew about forty demonstrators and was a peaceful and successful site.

Huntley, the last stop for Wednesday, June 26, was another great site for the distribution of literature. Sally Sullivan of Algonquin did a great job of turning people out in Huntley. The group was treated to a wonderful lunch in an old Victorian home in Huntley, hosted by Donna Britton.

Buffalo Grove Prepares for an Onslaught

Wheeling, IL saw several new recruits joining us for the first time. The police allowed the distribution of literature, but only from the edge of the street. No one was allowed to actually go into the street to hand leaflets to motorists who were stopped at the traffic light. The deputy police chief of Buffalo Grove, Steve Balinski, along with the chief patrolman, Ed Wagner, came to the Wheeling site to get a sense of what the Face the Truth Tour actually looked like. Both had contacted the League office during the week prior to the Tour and Balinski had had an extensive conversation with me on Wednesday, asking every question he could think of. He asked us to make a promise that we would not attempt to distribute any literature at all in Buffalo Grove, using his concern about possible traffic accidents as his reason.

The Face the Truth phenomenon is spreading to prominent national pro-life organizations. When Joe Scheidler recently taped an EWTN interview with Fr. Frank Pavone, Fr. Frank watched the League’s “Face the Truth” video. He is so supportive of this approach to changing hearts and minds that he told Scheidler he wanted to organize a Tour in the five boroughs of New York Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Scheidler will join Fr. Pavone at the New York tour sites. The dates are to be announced.

Within days of Fr. Pavone’s commitment to Face the Truth, Judie Brown of American Life League told Joe Scheidler at her conference in New Orleans that she too was convinced that Face the Truth was a highly effective program. Mrs. Brown plans to coordinate a Tour under the auspices of ALL and to promote the concept nationwide through her publications. Scheidler has been asked to pen an article for ALL’s magazine to appear in the near future.

With regard to parking in Buffalo Grove, Balinski asked if we had made any specific arrangements. I told him we had not and would play it by ear. He said that as long as we did not park in the Northwest Community Healthcare facility lot, we should be O.K.

When we arrived in Buffalo Grove, there was a very large shopping mall parking lot bordered by a Jewel-Osco and an I-Hop restaurant. In just a few minutes the I-Hop manager came out to inform us that the police had notified her that we were coming to set up a demonstration and that we could not park in the lot. We told her we would very likely come in and eat at the I-Hop when the demonstration was concluded. She still insisted we could not park there long enough to hold the demonstration and then eat.

A Baby’s Life Is Saved

As we prepared to move the vehicles, Monica sent a message on the walkie-talkie that she was in the BP gas station getting a cup of coffee. We had plenty of time before the 11:00 start time, so I headed to the BP to buy ice. I talked with Monica for a couple of minutes, then she pulled out of the parking space. I went in to get the ice and when I came out again another car had pulled into the spot next to me. After filling the coolers, I started to get into the driver’s seat. A young woman in the car next to me spoke up. “It’s funny,” she said. “I was thinking about abortion this morning and now I see your T-Shirt.”

I asked her if she had been thinking about having an abortion. “No,” she said. “Just thinking about abortion.” I asked her if she would like one of the T-Shirts and invited her to join the demonstration. She got out of her car and walked to the back of my van while I sorted through the T-Shirts looking for a medium size. I asked her if her friend in the car with her would like one. She told me that was her cousin. Then she said, “Actually I was thinking about having an abortion, but I didn’t want my cousin to know I’m pregnant yet. But now that I’ve seen your shirt, I’m not going to have an abortion.”

I gave her a hug and said, “God bless you.” Then we went on our way. She and her cousin have the Face the Truth T-Shirts. And a baby was saved, by the grace of God. I was irritated with the I-Hop manager for making me move my car, but God used her to get me to the BP station where a woman needed to see my shirt and the message, “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart.”

Linda Mirabelli and Barb Gunderson worked to get parishioners from St. Mary’s in Buffalo Grove to join the Tour. We had an excellent turnout in that town.

Buoyed by the knowledge that a life had been saved that day, we moved on to Wauconda where we had sixty participants. Chief Dan Quick and the Wauconda police were especially cooperative. Several people handed out hundreds of pro-life leaflets. Sarah Crocco, the little girl featured in the Face the Truth video, joined the Tour in Wauconda, along with her mother, Jean. She presented Joe Scheidler with a photo of herself with him on the 2000 Tour. They joked about her film career. Jim Finnegan and Mary Ann Filkevitch did a great job promoting the Wauconda site to the churches and neighbors in the area.

Rural Illinois Sees the Tour

On Friday, June 28, the Tour headed for the farthest points Rochelle, 82 miles from Chicago, Ashton and Dixon. Deputy Chief Rob Ruck was concerned about visibility of the traffic from cars approaching the intersection at 7th St. from 5th Ave. He asked us if we could turn the signs each time a motorist approached the corner from the side street. We agreed that it was difficult to see oncoming traffic beyond our signs, so we cooperated and turned or lowered the signs each time a car came along. Traffic was not heavy, so this was not much of a problem. Rochelle is a lovely town with many large Victorian homes. People were very receptive to our message and no one shouted obscenities at the demonstrators. Several local people joined the tour in Rochelle.

Ashton was even smaller than Rochelle only 1100 residents but very friendly. Our captain there, pastor Dana Laberge, had promoted the Tour to his own congregation and the other churches in Ashton. He held a sign on Main Street and then led the group in prayer at the end of the demonstrations. The waitress at the Huddle Café asked if she could have a T-Shirt.

When we finished the demonstration at 1:00 we convened at the Huddle for the most economical lunch we had yet encountered. And it was delicious besides. Two painters who were also dining at the Huddle asked about our shirts and our mission. They were very sympathetic and asked if we could give them a couple of the shirts. One man was rather large and we had no more extra-large shirts. He told us he would take the large and it would be his incentive to lose weight!

Dixon, Il, the boyhood home of President Ronald Reagan was a highly successful site. One man drove by, then pulled in and asked if he could make a donation. Then he decided to park and join the Tour. He was grateful that we had brought the Tour to Dixon. The owner of the Dairy Queen at the intersection allowed us to park in his lot, so everyone patronized his store at the end of the day. The Dixon Telegraph published a fantastic picture across the front page of the Saturday paper, including the pictures of the aborted babies.

Naperville Sets a New Standard

The last day of the 2002 Tour started in Naperville. Four very capable and ambitious captains had promoted the Tour in Naperville Mary Ellen O’Rourke, Terry Fenelon, Cynthia Linn and Elizabeth Verchio. Over a hundred participants joined the Tour in Naperville, one of the fastest growing communities in the country. There were also about a dozen pro-aborts, but their signs were pathetically small and difficult to read and they were so outnumbered by enthusiastic families of pro-lifers that one almost felt sorry for them.

Among the beautiful children joining the tour in Naperville were the adopted twin grandsons of Eileen Dolehide handsome little boys from Cambodia. Dick and Sue Berquist brought their entire family of children, many of whom are handicapped, clearly proclaiming that all life is beautiful and precious. Three of the Scheidlers’ grandchildren, Aaron, Aiden and Noah Miller held a poster featuring Aaron, on Ogden Avenue.

Christian Pastor Embarrassed by Display

At Oswego the pastor of the Methodist Church arrived after about a half an hour. He was concerned because some of his parishioners had called to complain about the exhibit and wanted to know if he was responsible for it or endorsed it. He wanted us to find a way to make it obvious that the church was not involved in setting up the display. I told him that if he were responsible he could be proud of it.

Although he said that was true, he pointed out that many of his parishioners were not pro-life and volunteered that he himself was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood because he thought they did great work. I informed him that Planned Parenthood is responsible for over half the abortions in America. He said that people who worked with Planned Parenthood had told him that that was not true, but when I told him that their own newsletters and statistics claim credit for performing and referring for at least half the annual abortions, he had no response. However, he did not ask us to remove our vans from his parking lot.

A League member named Tom decided to attend Pastor Fred’s service on Sunday, June 30. He made an announcement about the Tour, explaining that he had nothing to do with it and that he knew people had varying points of view on abortion and that that was all right. Tom gave the pastor a copy of “Sing a Little Louder,” a pro-life brochure about a small church in Germany whose congregation was bothered by the cries of prisoners being taken by train to the concentration camp nearby. They solved their disturbance problem by simply singing a little louder when the trains came by. Tom plans to keep in touch with Pastor Fred and hopes to help him understand the gravity of abortion and the role of the Christian church in fighting this evil.

Sugar Grove was the last stop on the Tour. Ron Stoneberg offered to treat about twenty of us to lunch at the House of Plenty in Sugar Grove before setting up the demonstration. The local captain there, Richard Brennan, had contacted the police to let them know we were coming. Initially the police wanted to tell us where we could set up, but they decided to just let us set up as we did in every other town. The owner of a small strip shopping center insisted that we remove our cars from his parking lot. When all the pro-life cars were gone, it was obvious that there were absolutely no customers in any of the stores along the strip. Response to the exhibit was rather cool not much reaction for or against.

The 2002 Face the Truth Tour once again confirmed the absolute necessity of conducting these tours and showing our fellow Americans the truth about abortion. We shake their complaisance for just a little while, but they will never forget that they have seen the face of abortion, and it is ugly. Maybe some will get involved in fighting abortion. Most will go back to their everyday habit of ignoring the problem. But at least a few will reject abortion as the solution to an unexpected pregnancy. Some babies will celebrate a birthday because several hundred people took a couple of hours out of their busy schedules to stand along a street and make people Face the Truth.

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