(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/08/rivera.gif)As though visiting the imprisoned apostles of the early church, the ultra leftist hierarchs of the United Church of Christ recently visited and offered “pastoral leadership” to an imprisoned Puerto Rican “nationalist” complicit in bank robberies, bombings, and at least 5 deaths in the 1970s.
“It’s been a longtime mission of the church,” explained the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministry, in a UCC news release announcing her planned prison visit. “We feel a strong commitment to support the movement to get him released, but we wanted to visit him and offer pastoral care.“ She was reportedly joined on the August 3 visit to the maximum security prison in Terra Haute, Indiana by UCC President the Rev. Geoffrey Black. They were hoping to spend about 4 hours with Oscar López Rivera, now age 70, who has spent 31 unrepentant years in prison.
López Rivera was a leading henchman in the now thankfully defunct Armed Forces for National Liberation (FALN), which sought to “liberate” a Puerto Rico imprisoned by U.S. imperialism through terrorism in the U.S. The UCC release cites the FALN’s more than 100 bombings (actually more than 140), and notes that he was convicted of conspiracy to commit sedition, meriting 55 years. He also considers himself a “political prisoner,” a claim the UCC and the rest of the Religious Left readily embrace. The UCC release omits that López Rivera was arrested in the wake of an attempted armored car robbery and that two of his homes were full of bomb making material. Nor does it mention that he gained 15 more years in prison sentence after plotting a violent escape.
The UCC news release recalled the denomination has urged release of the FALN “political prisoners” since 1991. But actually the UCC has been approving statements on behalf of the Puerto Rican terrorists since 1977. The first one in 1977 was called “Grand Jury Abuse;” the second one in 1979 was called “The Release of Four Puerto Rican Nationalist 21 Prisoners;” the third one in 1985 was called “Discriminatory Treatment of Prisoners of Conscience;” the fourth in 1989 was called “Ministry to Prisoners of Conscience.”
It can be assumed that the UCC has not approved anywhere near as many resolutions, if any at all, on behalf of countless Christians imprisoned for their faith around the world. Nor has the UCC likely said much if anything about persecution of countless persons of conscience globally since 1977 by communist, Islamist and other repressive regimes. The pretended oppression of Puerto Rico, and its tiny handful of violent nationalist advocates, singularly has merited the UCC’s sustained attention across four decades.
In 1999, President Bill Clinton controversially granted clemency to11 other FALN terrorist inmates, in a bid, some believed, to win Puerto Rican votes for his wife’s impending New York U.S. Senate candidacy. López Rivera declined clemency, refusing to admit wrong, or submit to parole. His lack of regret for complicity in the bombing spree does not disturb the UCC. Last year, the UCC’s governing General Synod urged release for López Rivera and one other remaining inmate.
“I just want to let him know we care a lot about him, his well-being, that we continue to advocate for his release — and tell him that directly … I’m looking forward to meeting him,” explained Rev. Jaramillo. “I’ve heard good things about his character.“ These “good things” must include aspects of his “character” other than his lack of regret for complicity in bombings and murder. The UCC news release says nothing negative about his unapologetic terrorism. “I would encourage people to read this story with an open heart and open mind,” Rev. Jaramillo urged. One of López Riverak’s terrorist colleagues, who was released in 2010, has a painting displayed in the UCC’s nation office in Cleveland, the UCC news release boasted. This inmate received a “hero’s welcome” after his release, the UCC has noted.
The UCC’s 2011 resolution lamented that “Mr. López Rivera has watched from behind bars as his daughter and grand-daughter have grown up without him.” How sad. But the resolution doesn’t mention the victims of the FALN’s bombings, whose spouses and children have endured over 35 years of anguish over their loved ones’ needless deaths thanks to the FALN’s pointless fanaticism. The FALN’s worst atrocity was the 1975 bombing of the historic Fraunces Tavern in New York, where 4 were killed. Another man was killed in a 1977 New York bombing. Across several years at least 80 others were injured by FALN bombs, including a New York police officer who lost his eye in 1974.
After I first wrote about church support for the FALN terrorists in the 1990’s, the young adult son of one of their victims phoned me, distressed over continued sympathy for his father’s killers. His children will never know their grandfather, thanks to López Rivera. And since López Rivera has no regrets over his terrorism, his granddaughter is almost certainly better off not knowing him.
In 1995 I had exposed the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society’s effusive endorsement of the FALN prisoners in 1995, declaring they had “taken up arms against the colonizer” and were comparable to “American patriots” of the Revolution. The Methodist agency even likened them to the Apostles Peter and Paul, who also were imprisoned, noting “some of our greatest spiritual heroes spent time in jail for political reasons.
Church supporters of the terrorists sickeningly cite Bible passages about visiting prisoners. But Scripture doesn’t call for endorsing the murderous crimes of guilty prisoners. Truly Christian visits to prison would seek repentance. But the Religious Left across the decades has sometimes tragically prioritized radical politics, even when violent, over reconciliation with God.
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