Itinerant pro-life activist Bob Roethlisberger heads up the line of signs on northbound Lake Shore Drive, July 9 [Photo by EJS]
Walking down the line of Face the Truth volunteers spread out along Perryville Road in Rockford I pass a middle-aged woman holding her sign up with one hand and counting off Rosary beads with the other. Moving on I see a young man reading his Bible, a teenage girl singing hymns, a young mother holding a sign with her son, who is eager to help save babies. At the end of the line a mother holding a sign with her little girl remarks on the blue sky overhead: “The Lord is so good.”
We often say that if Face the Truth did nothing but bring good people together to put their faith into action, it would be worth it. Of course, our Tours do much more — they keep abortion before the public, appeal to the conscience of the nation, change hearts and minds and even save babies’ lives. But it is a special blessing simply to be out on the street with fellow pro-lifers, and this year’s Tour drew out more new participants than ever to share in that experience.
Three Days Downtown
The 2004 “Summer Blitz” Face the Truth Tour began as last year, with three days in Downtown Chicago, starting Wednesday, July 7. Each morning downtown we held eight-foot signs on the Kennedy Expressway overpasses, one of our most powerful sites last year.
Kennedy traffic passes the Tour on the Monroe Street Bridge, July 8 [Photo by Dan Gura]
In the wake of the violence during our spring Campus Truth Tour (see the Spring 2004 Action News), we employed a new strategy on the overpasses this year. Instead of placing one sign on each side of seven or eight bridges, we concentrated groups of signs on the Madison and Monroe Street bridges, with two people on each giant sign and a “floater” on each side of the bridge ready to help out or videotape any disturbance.
Each morning we reached tens of thousands of cars and trucks on the highway below. No counter-protesters ever showed up at this site, and after the first day we didn’t even see the police, who quickly realized we were peaceful and responsible.
Tim Murphy enjoys shade from Old Glory on Michigan Avenue, July 8 [Photo by EJS]
New T-Shirts Debut at Daley Plaza
Our midday stop on the first day of the Tour was Daley Plaza, a favorite site with its large number of mostly supportive lunch hour pedestrians. Sidewalk construction on the Plaza presented a logistical challenge, but we devised an effective display along two sides of the Plaza and across Clark Street in front of the County Building.
Daley Plaza provided the first success story for our 2004 Face the Truth T-shirts, which said on the back: “Pregnant? Hurting? Need Help?” followed by the number for the National Life Center‘s 24-hour help line,1-800-848-LOVE. A woman saw Jean Crocco’s shirt and asked about getting help. She said she was concerned she might be pregnant. Jean gave her information about area pregnancy resource centers, including Aid for Women only a few blocks away. The woman asked for prayers, and Jean prayed over her right on the spot.
A father and son visiting downtown stopped to hold signs with us, the first of many volunteers this year who saw the Tour and joined us. The father, Rock, said he and his son, Little Rock, were thankful that Jesus had called them to do this work that day.
Tour display along Dearborn Street at Daley Plaza in Chicago, July 7 [Photo by EJS]
Graphic Signs’ Lasting Impact
We are often criticized for exposing children to our graphic abortion signs and supposedly traumatizing them. Our response is that while we understand this concern, it cannot justify hiding the reality of abortion, and that when children see the victims of abortion they react with sympathy rather than horror. A case in point was a little boy exiting the County Building. He saw one of the Baby Choice signs, which show the severed head of a fully developed unborn baby, and said with concern, “Oh, who did that to that little newborn baby?”
One day he may remember that picture when faced with a crisis pregnancy, as did a young man who talked to Tom Hudson at the day’s final site at Madison Street and Wacker Drive. He told Tom he saw a picture of an aborted baby in elementary school, and remembered it years later when he got a girl pregnant. They decided to keep the baby. When Tom had to leave to catch a train, the young man took over holding his sign.
New Signs Offer Help
Many volunteers commented that the throngs of commuters en route to the train stations were noticeably less hostile than during previous Tours, with many thank-yous and blessings. Perhaps our repeated visits are having an effect, or perhaps people were impacted by the new signs that we used for the first time at this site.
The new Jesus signs on Madison Street west of Wacker Drive, July 7 [Photo by EJS]
A fixture of our Tours is the Jesus sign: Beth Swiegard’s painting of a weeping Jesus holding an aborted baby with the caption below, “Abortion Kills His Children.” This year Tour veteran Tim Murphy changed the caption on one side of each sign to read “Jesus Forgives and Heals.” Five of these powerful signs lined each side of Madison east of Wacker, followed by our other new sign which says in large block letters, “Need Help? 1-800-848-LOVE.”
Pro-Aborts Unwittingly Help
After again reaching thousands of expressway drivers on our second Tour day, July 8, we returned to another great site from last year, the Art Institute of Chicago on Michigan Avenue. About a dozen pro-abortion counter-protestors showed up to pass out crude flyers and hold “Keep Abortion Legal” signs.
Some passers-by were confused by the juxtaposition of these signs and our graphic abortion signs, uncertain which side we were on. Seminarian Jared McCambridge said he didn’t mind if people thought we were supporting abortion: “They have to make the connection that this is legal in our country. If they can’t come to the judgment that that’s something evil based on what they see, then I’m not going to be able to talk them out of it — I can only pray for them.”
T-Shirts Spark Reaction at Lunch
Our 2004 T-Shirts offer help at Daley Plaza, July 7 [Photo by EJS]
After the Art Institute, our group dispersed for lunch. The Scheidler clan—Joe and Ann with their children Annie, Matthias and me — walked to Millennium Park for a picnic. A woman on her lunch break read our matching T-shirts and called out to ask what we were doing, saying, “I’m so pro-life!” We told her about the Tour and gave her a copy of the itinerary and invited her to join us later. She said she would see us at our last site when she got off work in the afternoon.
When we arrived at the final site of the day at Adams Street and Wacker Drive, Tim Murphy told us about a different lunchtime reaction to the Tour T-shirts. Tim was having lunch at a café with Jim Finnegan, Dan Gura and Mike Walsh, when two men approached Dan and started lambasting him for wearing the T-shirt, for eating meat, for being a man with an opinion on abortion — apparently trying to impress some young women in the café. The indomitable Jim Finnegan began to argue with them, and before long the whole place had emptied out!
We set up our signs along Adams Street similar to the previous afternoon on Madison, with abortion signs east of Wacker and the new Jesus and Help signs west of Wacker. The highlight of this site was when the woman we had met in Millennium Park, Kevia, showed up to hold a sign and get her own Face the Truth 2004 T-shirt.
A Nemesis Identified
Our final downtown Tour date, July 9, was marked by a significant revelation. Action News readers may remember that two pro-abort ringleaders took turns harassing my father and me during the first two dates of our spring Campus Tour. We knew the identity of one of them, but the other was unknown.
The agitator showed up, alone, at our midday site along Lake Shore Drive at Buckingham Fountain. He caught sight of me and began to harass me from a distance, but I would have none of it. I approached a bicycle cop and showed him a copy of the Spring 2004 Action News, with pictures of the pro-abortion terrorists we faced, and explained my concern at being followed by this guy again, whose name I didn’t even know. The officer called the man over and asked for I.D., and I was just able to read his name. After being questioned the fellow walked off and was not seen again during the Summer Blitz Tour.
Even the Rain Serves the Tour
As we walked across the Loop to our final downtown site, the Kennedy Overpasses, the sky darkened and it began to rain. We don’t always cancel because of rain, but we didn’t consider it safe to hold the giant signs over the expressway in the rain, and decided to cancel this Tour site.
However, the rain actually worked in our favor. One of our vans had been stalling, and we had arranged to borrow Tim Murphy’s van for the rest of the Tour. Canceling the last site allowed us to make the van switch and unload the giant highway signs, which were no longer needed, without working late into the evening.
Jessica (left) and Magdalen Payne hold a new Help sign in Elmhust, July 10
[Photo by EJS]
Tour Moves to the Suburbs
The morning of Saturday, July 10, we set up at Washington Street and Ogden Avenue in Naperville, the first of three great sites in the western suburbs selected by local captain Greg Dieter. An abandoned gas station on the corner provided an excellent headquarters — one of many such locations we were blessed with during the suburban phase of the Tour.
As is typical in more affluent areas, the Tour drew hostile reactions from some of the public. One angry driver threw an egg at one of our signs, but missed it, and then threw an apple which hit the sign and ricocheted back into traffic and struck another car. Naperville police immediately pulled over and arrested the driver who threw the apple, and we learned the other driver, who was pro-life, intended to press charges.
Police Keep the Peace
Police nearly made a second arrest when a woman drove up beside our vans, jumped out of her car and started arguing with a volunteer. Ann Scheidler approached and the woman began to scream and wave her finger in Ann’s face. A police officer was quickly on the scene and told the woman to step back. She refused, saying she had a right to voice her opinion.
The officer said that’s true, but that she doesn’t have a right to wave her finger threateningly in someone’s face. She continued to argue with the officer who finally said,”We’ve already arrested one person this morning, and you can be the second.” The woman finally backed off, and after complaining some more to another officer, drove away.
Eric Scheidler leads a contingent of the Payne siblings to their posts in Elmhurst, July 10
[Photo by Dan Gura]
Police were called on again to keep the peace at our next stop at Cass and Ogden Avenues in Westmont, where a deranged young man began to shout and wave his arms wildly first at a volunteer and then at Joe Scheidler. A tour volunteer ran over and began videotaping the scene, which usually makes people calm down, but the madman only grew more agitated, and police finally had to intervene.
Before our next site we were treated to a restful lunch at the beautiful home of Jerry and Barbara Urbik in Elmhurst, near our final site at North Avenue and York Road. Several pro-lifers had trouble with the operator of the Hamburger Heaven on the corner. He yelled at Ann Scheidler for using his garbage can, and refused to serve Alberta Rael when she tried to buy everyone on the Tour an ice cream cone. Pro-lifers in the area should buy their hamburgers somewhere else.
Week Two Begins in Rockford
After Sunday and Monday off, the Tour resumed Tuesday, July 13 in Rockford. In addition to the core group of Tour coordinators, several stalwarts came from Chicago, including Dan Payne and two of his ten brothers and sisters. Dan took time off from work to come to every Tour site; he was so helpful during the first week of the Tour that for the second week we traded his red participant shirt for a blue coordinator shirt and gave him a walkie-talkie.
The Chicago group joined forces with local Rockford activists for three sites starting in downtown Rockford at 6th and Jefferson Streets. Traffic was lighter than we would have liked at this site, but was more than made up for at the next site at East State Street and Alpine Road, one of the busiest intersections of the entire Tour. We were joined by even more local activists, including a group who had been praying and counseling at Rockford’s abortion clinic in the morning.
Lunch hostess Cherolyn Lexfold with daughter Desiree on Perryville Road in Rockford, July 13
[Photo by EJS]
At this site two thugs yelled threats from the cab of their landscaping truck at Dan Payne, who was holding a warning sign north on Alpine. Dan radioed ahead and I was able to get the license plate and a description when they passed, but police failed to respond to our call by the time we left the corner.
We were treated to lunch by Cherolyn Lexfold and her group at the Chapelwood Community Church, who joined us for our final Tour site at East State Street and Perryville Road, another busy intersection. Traffic was so heavy that it was hard to gauge public reaction, but we were encouraged when a man stopped at McDonald’s, stocked up on cups of icewater, and passed them out along South Perryville. He told us he believes in what we’re doing and hoped we’d make a difference that day.
St. Xavier University Uncooperative
On Wednesday, July 14 we were back in Chicago for three sites on the South Side. In the morning we set up at 103rd Street and Pulaski Road in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, which also borders Oak Lawn. When we arrived we parked our vans not far from the corner at an empty lot of St. Xavier University.
Monica Miller leads a prayer at 103rd Street and Pulaski Road, July 14 [Photo by EJS]
Soon a public safety officer arrived and told us we could not park there, even though there were no other cars in the lot. We moved our vans to a space in front of the nearby Subway sandwich shop, but quite a few volunteers had parked in the St. Xavier lot too and were now out on the street with their signs.
Ann Scheidler called the Public Safety office and asked an official named Mary if the cars could stay there for the remaining hour. Mary replied that “the University cannot be associated with a political statement.” Ann explained that Face the Truth isn’t a political statement but a moral statement, but Mary insisted they can’t be associated with “any statement.” Ann later wrote to complain to St. Xavier University President Judith Dwyer about the incident, but received only a cursory reply.
While Ann held off the public safety officer, the other Tour coordinators fanned out to hold the signs of any volunteers who were parked in the St. Xavier lot while they moved their cars. I bicycled around gathering keys from several volunteers and moved their cars for them.
A Mother Shares Her Story
Meanwhile, an elegant black woman in her forties came out of the Subway shop and said to Ann, “I am so proud of you for doing this.” Ann was so grateful to hear such encouragement after her frustrating experience with St. Xavier University that she gave the woman a hug.
The woman told Ann that when she was sixteen she got pregnant and was told by several friends to get an abortion, like they had done. But she knew that wasn’t right and had the baby, a daughter now in her twenties who is the manager of that Subway sandwich shop. She said, “She has been my best friend.” She called her daughter out to see the Tour, and two Subway employees came out and asked for information.
Hispanic Neighbors Welcome Tour
Next was 55th Street and Kedzie Avenue in the predominately Hispanic Gage Park neighborhood. Public reaction was much more positive at this site than at any other in the Tour so far. One exception was Rev. John Dearhammer, the pastor of St. Gall Parish, which is right on that corner. Fr. Dearhammer came out after we unloaded our signs onto the lawn in front of the Church. He was annoyed that we had not warned him we were coming and irritated that the signs were on church property.
We had actually sent a letter to the parish several weeks before the Tour, but we moved the signs. Fr. Dearhammer later called our office to complain further, but office volunteer Margaret Creagh sweet talked him into pledging to publicize the Tour next time we’re in his neighborhood!
We were joined in Gage Park by two national leaders of Face the Truth, Monica Miller from Michigan and Jack Ames from Maryland. Every year League representatives join Jack’s Maryland Truth Tour and we look forward to joining Monica on her first Michigan Tour next year. Monica lent us several first trimester abortion signs for the Tour.
While Matt Funovits was holding an Eighth Week of Life sign on 55th Street, a man walked out of a nearby house wearing a rock band T-shirt with the words “Butchered at Birth” on the back and a picture of a baby skeleton in the fetal position. Whether the slogan was meant to be pro-life or not Matt could not say, but it was a strange juxtaposition to Matt’s unborn baby sign.
Tour Saves a Baby’s Life
Our final site of the day was Archer Avenue and Halsted Street in the Bridgeport neighborhood. Our numbers had thinned after lunch, so we held signs only on Archer, where traffic was heavier, but the Lord showed us that he doesn’t need many to do his work.
A young man walking up Halsted stopped and began to flip through a pile of extra signs and ask Ann Scheidler about the babies depicted, both live and aborted. He told Ann his name was Mario and that yesterday he found out his girlfriend was nine weeks pregnant, and that they were considering abortion. He said that he believed stumbling upon our display was a sign from God to keep the baby.
Ann gave him a picture of a ten-week baby, and asked him if he had considered marrying his girlfriend. Mario said they’d been together for a long time and that he probably ought to marry her. At the end of the day our Tour group, representing five states, prayed for Mario, his girlfriend, and their unborn baby, who would have the chance to live thanks to Face the Truth.
Young Moms See Tour, Join In
Two days in the northwest suburbs began Thursday, July 15 with a morning stop in Hanover Park at Irving Park and Barrington Roads. Our numbers were bolstered at this site by members of a local teen pro-life club, and we saw the return of pro-abortion counter-protestors, who were to follow us for the last three days of the Tour.
Tour Staff cooerdinates the set-up in Hanover Park, July 15 [Photo by EJS]
The handful of radical feminists held hand-made signs that were difficult for drivers to read. Whenever they held “Honk for Choice” signs, we posted someone nearby to hold a “Honk for Life” sign to neutralize the honking. When they held “Keep Abortion Legal” signs, we posted both similar-looking “Keep Murder Legal” signs and large Baby Choice signs to show exactly what they want to keep legal.
At our next site at Golf and Roselle Roads in Hoffman Estates we were joined by a young mother named Paula and her children who were picking up lunch nearby and saw the Tour (see story). In contrast another mother drove up beside Matthias Scheidler and began to yell at him for traumatizing her child, who was in the back seat — fast asleep.
After another great Tour lunch at Christine Taylor’s home in Hoffman Estates we moved on to our last site of the day at Euclid Avenue and Plum Grove Road in Rolling Meadows. Another young mother, Sheila, who actually considered herself pro-choice, was curious enough to stop and join us with her baby daughter (see story). She held an abortion sign and talked to the pro-abortion group about why people should see what abortion is if they’re going to make that choice.
Tour along Oakton Street in Des Plaines, July 16 [Photo by EJS]
Police Shrug at Gun Threat
Our second day in the northwest suburbs began at Arlington Heights and Golf Roads in Arlington Heights. We were joined again by a small group of counter-protestors. At one point one of the pro-aborts and I passed each other in the middle of the crosswalk, and a driver in the left-turn lane called out, “Good work!”
I had a hunch he was talking to the pro-abort, but I stepped over anyway to hand him a Face the Truth flyer. He swore and told me to get away from him “before I pull out my gun.”
I stepped back, stood in front of his car, and photographed him and then his license plate. I shouted for the police officers on the opposite corner, stepped aside as the light changed and then chased his car through the busy intersection. He pulled into the gas station where the police were, apparently realizing that they would be after him if he drove off.
The police took both our statements but refused to do anything about his gun threat, which legally constitutes assault. The commanding officer said I shouldn’t have tried to hand him a flyer, since we had agreed not to distribute literature in the street; it didn’t matter that I was in the crosswalk with a walk sign. He said if he cited the driver he would have to cite me too. I told him that was fine, but in the end all they would do was fill out a report.
Later the pro-abort fellow who had passed me in the crosswalk asked if I was okay. His name was Kevin and this was his first protest. I thanked him for his concern.
No Pro-Abort Children Activists
The police at our next stop at Oakton and Lee Streets in Des Plaines were much more supportive. The officer assigned to stay on scene even told us that four out of five cops are pro-life.
For a while I stood near the pro-abort group and tried to talk to them. Some of them were relatively friendly, but one of them remarked, “You don’t see any children out here holding our signs,” meaning that we exploit children. I began to laugh at the irony of her comment — no children holding signs in favor of killing children — and thanked her for the quote. She didn’t get it.
Our final stop of the day was one of the most hostile of recent years, Waukegan and Glenview Roads in Glenview. At first the Glenview police tried to keep the pro-lifers and the pro-aborts separate, assigning the small group of pro-aborts to one corner. Many passing cars responded to their “Honk for Choice” signs and rolled down their windows to cheer and shout. The effect was discouraging, especially since heavily pro-abortion Glenview is Ann Scheidler’s home town.
I appealed to the commanding officer that in order to counteract the pro-abortion message we had to stand among them with our “Honk for Life” and abortion signs. I showed him photos on my digital camera of our peaceful interaction with the pro-aborts earlier in the day, and he finally relented. The honking and cheering quieted significantly after we posted our signs among the opposition.
A bright spot at this otherwise disheartening site was when two passing teens joined the Tour. Neil and Patrick were on their way to get a bike tire repaired when they passed the Tour and gave us a thumbs up. I invited them to join us after they had finished at the bike shop, and they did. John Jansen gave them information on our Generations for Life youth outreach program.
Dramatic Tour display along Ridge Avenue in Evanston, July 17 [Photo by EJS]
Sparks Fly in Evanston
We visited two sites in Evanston on Saturday, July 17, the final day of the Tour, starting at Central Street and Green Bay Road. The Evanston police officer on the scene was extremely cooperative. We set up abortion signs on Green Bay, but limited the signs on Central to born and unborn baby pictures, since a sidewalk fair was going on down the road. The pro-aborts amassed on one corner, where we overshadowed them with two huge third trimester abortion signs.
Next came the most exciting site of the entire Tour, Davis Street and Ridge Avenue. We lined six blocks of Ridge Avenue and posted extra Warning signs on Davis, a one-way feeder from downtown Evanston. Two dozen pro-abortion counter-protestors appeared, many of whom lived nearby the site, and police were present in force to keep the peace.
Some of the pro-aborts held window shades in front of our signs to block them, but volunteers foiled them by hoisting the signs up on their shoulders. One young woman tried so zealously to block Margie Mansko’s sign that she kept bumping into Margie, who called me over to help.
The girl’s father walked up with an eight-foot two-by-two to help his daughter hoist her window shade up. I immediately called the police about the hazardous situation, but before they arrived a more serious incident broke out nearby when a couple leapt shouting from their car on a side street and the woman began to beat the man. The police drove up and I waved them over to the violent scene. We never learned if there was any connection to the Tour.
Craig Capizzi holds Honk and Jesus signs among the pro-aborts in Evanston, July 17 [Photo by EJS]
A moment later, a van screeched to a halt on Ridge and a man with an Australian accent jumped out and began accosting volunteer Noel Naughton, a tough Irishman. I shouted for the police while a Tour volunteer videotaped the scene. An Evanston cop drove up and demanded in his strong Chicago accent that the Australian drive off and quit blocking traffic.
Meanwhile back at the corner of Ridge and Davis the main body of pro-aborts were chanting and cheering as pro-abortion Evanstonians encouraged them with honks and cheers of their own. Police insisted we not distribute literature at the chaotic corner, so our literature crew held Keep Murder Legal signs instead, and we doubled-up our corner signs, adding Baby Choice to the usual Jesus signs and flags. The display of abortion, Life and Help signs up and down Ridge was so powerful that despite the hostile public and jeering counter-protestors, the attitude among the pro-lifers was upbeat.
Tom Defends Face the Truth on WGN
Before leaving Evanston our group gathered at a lakefront park for a cookout hosted by Mary Higgins. En route to lunch, several Tour participants tuned into WGN radio to find a call-in program underway regarding the Tour site we had just left, which one of the hosts had passed on his way into work. One of the Tour staff pulled over and called into the show. Listeners heard an eloquent defense of Face the Truth, explaining why we must show America the victims of abortion.
A contingent of Dan Payne’s family heard the remarks on WGN and decided to come out for our last stop at McCormick Boulevard and Touhy Avenue in Lincolnwood. The busy intersection was peaceful, with dozens of signs spread far apart for blocks up and down McCormick and west on Touhy. A lone pro-abort named Julie stood on the corner; she was surprisingly friendly and I told her I admired her tenacity and wished she were one of us.
Joe Scheidler offers some concluding remarks in Lincolnwood, July 17
[Photo by Dan Gura]
Joe Scheidler closed the Tour with some final remarks to our group about the success of this year’s Tour and the growing impact of Face the Truth around the country, followed by a final prayer. Joe invited everyone to the Scheidler home on Chicago’s northwest side for a barbecue to celebrate the conclusion of our fifth annual Face the Truth Tour.
Faith Shines Through Tour
Every summer Tour has its own predominant theme or “flavor.” What stood out about the 2004 Face the Truth Tour was the many people who dropped what they were doing to hold signs with us and show the truth about abortion. Between them and other new participants, nearly 100 people joined the Tour this year for the first time, the largest group of new faces we’ve ever seen.
We are grateful to them all — the new volunteers, the stalwarts, those who joined us for one site or all twenty-six, our lunch hosts and those who just stopped to thank us. We are all blessed by their example of faith put into action.
Links and Related Stories
- Scheidlers Join Truth Tour in Washington, D.C. — Story in this issue of Action News
- League Clashes with Pro-Aborts on Campus Face the Truth Tour — Story from Spring 2004 Action News
- 2003 Face the Truth Tour a Success — Story from Fall 2003 Action News
- Face the Truth main page on this site