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Paul Schenck

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Paul Chaim Benedicta Schenck (born in 1958 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey) is an ordained Protestant clergyman now a member of the Catholic Church who is a pro-life activist[1][2] along with his twin brother, Robert Schenck.[3][4] They are both active in ministries in Washington, D.C.as well as throughout the United States and other countries.

Early ministries

The Schenck brothers were raised as Reform Jews in Grand Island, New York. Both brothers became Christians in 1974 and then went into the ministry together. Robert joined Teen Challenge and Paul attended Elim Bible Institute in Lima, New York. Both brothers later became ministers in the Elim Fellowship and the Assemblies of God churches. They described themselves as Jewish Christians.

Paul founded the New Covenant Tabernacle [1]Church in Tonawanda, New York in 1982, after joining the Reformed Episcopal Church he was vicar of a mission in Virginia Beach and rector of a parish in Catonsville, Maryland. Paul was the Executive Vice President of the American Center for Law & Justice from 1994 to 1997. Robert later joined the Evangelical Alliance and transferred his ordination to the Methodist Episcopal Church.[5]

Pro-life activist careers

The brothers were involved with the founding of Operation Rescue and, in 1992, helped organize the "Spring of Life" in Buffalo and to focus its public demonstrations on abortionists and to close abortion clinics. Hundreds of pro-life activists, most from Western New York were arrested for blockading clinics. Paul's image appeared on the cover of Life magazine. Robert was photographed holding an aborted 20-week-old fetus in his hands.[6]

Robert was arrested for showing Bill Clinton an aborted fetus during the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City.

Paul was accused of obstruction of a federal order for denying that he borrowed his twin brother's necktie during a demonstration in front of a post office behind which was an abortion clinic. The charge was part of a larger case against the Schencks for distributing Bibles, tracts and pro-life literature on the public sidewalk near the post office. Robert was released from the case, but Paul was sentenced to 30 days in a federal prison.

Until about 1994, the brothers had worked together, primarily in Buffalo, but then Paul moved to Virginia Beach and joined the ACLJ, the public interest law firm headed up by Keith Fournier, a Catholic deacon, and Jay Sekulow, a Jewish Christian Constitutional lawyer. Paul also became Reformed Episcopal Church Chaplain of Regent University School of Law. Robert moved to Washington, D.C., where he founded Faith and Action.[7][8]

In Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York, Paul's challenge to a court order went to the Supreme Court in 1996. The case was to decide details about restraining orders, in particular for protesters around abortion clinics. The Court held that the injunction provisions imposing "fixed buffer zone" limitations were constitutional, but the provisions imposing "floating buffer zones" violated the First Amendment. The Court voted 8-1 in Schenck's favor striking down the floating zones. The Court used that case to strike down similar restrictions in Colorado, Arizona and California.

On December 24, 1996, Robert again encountered Clinton at the Washington National Cathedral and, in reference to Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, said "God will hold you to account, Mr. President." Robert was detained by the Secret Service.[9][10]

Paul left the Assemblies of God denomination and became a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church in 1995. In addition to his studies at Elim Bible Institute, he graduated the Lutheran Rice University (BA biblical studies), was granted the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire (and in Rome), was granted the Graduate Catechetical Diploma by The Most Rev. Paul Laverde, the Bishop of Arlington, Virginia, studied liturgical theology at the Catholic University of America and received the Master of Religious Studies then Master of Arts in theology from the Catholic Distance University, summa cum laude. He received the Master Certificate in Executive Leadership and Management from the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College in 2007, and completed certification with the Pastoral Provision in the Catholic Church at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in the Archdiocese of Newark in 2009.

Robert received the Master of Arts in Christian Ministry from the Faith Lutheran Theological Seminary and the honorary Doctor of Divinity from the St. Paul Christian University of St. Paul, Indiana, a Methodist institution. In 1996 Paul became rector of the historic Bishop Cummins Memorial Church founded in Baltimore in 1872.

After James Kopp murdered Dr. Barnett Slepian, Robert and two other ministers placed seven roses near Slepian's medical office: four yellow roses for the Slepians' four children, one pink rose for Mrs. Slepian, one red rose for Slepian and one white rose for hope. His widow, Lynne Slepian, returned the bouquet and included a note saying the gesture was not appreciated.[11][12]

Robert was on the scene moments after Russell Eugene Weston Jr. shot two U.S. Capitol Police dead, accompanied by other ministers, singing the Lord's Prayer and then counseling distraught witnesses and bystanders. He was later appointed to the U.S. Senate Chaplain's Emergency Pastoral Response Team set up by Chaplain Rear Admiral Barry Black to respond to large emergencies within the Capitol. More than a dozen clergy from Capitol Hill churches and ministries are named among the members.

After prison and Slepian's death, the Schencks both distanced themselves from the more radical elements of the pro-life movement. They issued sharp denunciations of violent tactics and called for peaceful engagement between the pro-life and abortion rights movements. Paul participated in a gathering of pro-life and pro-choice representatives convened by the Aspen Institute and Common Ground Movement at the Wye River Plantation, site of the negotiation of the Wye River Memorandum.

When Kopp admitted to The Buffalo News that he murdered Slepian, Paul released a statement on January 21, 2002:

"James Kopp has admitted to being a cold-blooded killer, a vigilante who acted as judge, jury and executioner. In what he did, he undermined the whole moral philosophy of the pro-life movement, which views every human life as intrinsically valuable and created in God's image. He should fade into ignominy after being utterly rejected by all people of conscience. May God have mercy on his soul."

Washington, D.C.

Robert has been a regular attendee at the annual National Prayer Breakfasts held in Washington, D.C as part of National Day of Prayer. He is also involved in National Bible Reading Marathon on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. During the Marathon, dozens of volunteers read aloud the entire Bible, which takes the participants about 80 hours.[13][14]

Robert now describes himself as an ordained minister of the Evangelical Church Alliance, and is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church where he has served as a District Superintendent.[7]

Robert has been conducting what he calls the "Ten Commandments Project." He has long pursued the posting of the Decalogue in government buildings and schools and some political leaders in the Capitol still display plastic tablets depicting the Ten Commandments that Robert has delivered to them. He also involved himself in the controversy of judge Roy Moore and the Ten Commandments courthouse monument, both participating in the vigils outside of the courthouse and as a media commentator.[15]

On March 10, 2004, Paul, to the surprise of some of his Protestant associates, especially those back in Buffalo, entered into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Paul is served as a Pastoral Associate in Priests for Life from 2004-2007, was the National Representative of Catholics United for Life and was appointed Director fo the Office of Respect Life Activities by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg (PA) in 2008. He has founded the National Pro-Life Action Center (NPLAC) on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and remains its chairman.

Both brothers very publicly took pro-life stances about the Terri Schiavo controversy and tied the issue to future Supreme Court nominations.

On June 27, 2005, Robert walked out on Billy Graham during the second night of his Queens, New York crusade on Saturday, after Graham yielded the stage to Bill Clinton and suggested his wife Hillary should be president.[16][17]

Robert had access to Harriet Miers during her brief Supreme Court nomination and took exception that she was attending St. John's Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. rather than the more conservative Church of Christ as she had done back in Texas. Both Paul and Robert have increased visibility because their offices at Faith and Action and NPLAC, are just across the street from the Supreme Court. In a recent CNN feature, they have indicated that they can maintain opinions that are quite independent of the Bush administration.[18][19][20][21]

On January 5, 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported that Robert and two other Christian ministers claimed to have entered during off-hours the hearing rooms for the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito and applied holy oil to the chairs.[22]

Current Life

Paul and Robert Schenck work side by side on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Robert's office is at Faith and Action, 109 2nd St NE near the Supreme Court, and Paul is chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center at 113 2nd St NE. Paul resides with his family in Pennsylvania and Robert in Virginia.

Dr. Paul CB Schenck is currently Director of the Office of Respect Life Activities for the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg where he teaches in the Diocesan Institute. As chairman of the National Pro-Life Action Center in Washington, Dc he directs its activities and is co-founder of National Pro-Life Radio (NPLR.NET) with Maryland attorney and pro-life activist Stephen G. Peroutka.

References

  • Live From the Gates of Hell: An Insider's Look at the Antiabortion Underground by Jerry Reiter (2000) ISBN 1-57392-840-2

Notes

Books

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