“I kept walking to the exit and he followed me, making sure I was leaving by walking right behind me the whole way and continuing to tell me again and again to ‘get out of the building’ and that he was ‘law enforcement,’” said Jessica Schuessler, describing her forcible removal from an area outside Compass Church in Naperville, IL on Sunday, March 26th.
No tactic has produced greater opposition to the Abolish Human Abortion movement in America than when abolitionists visit a local church gathering to hold signs and pass out pamphlets exhorting believers to examine themselves in light of the abortion holocaust and assess the state of their salt and light1 in a culture where over 3,500 children are murdered every day.
As abolitionist Joe Salant said in a recent video on social media, “If you were a baby scheduled for murder sanctioned under American ‘law’, you would want Christians going to the churches to plead on your behalf.”
Despite criticism from many sources, harsh public rebukes from popular Christian teachers who equate the “Church Repent Project” with acts of terrorism, and some well-meaning advice from would-be coworkers in the cause who want to engage in the work of abolition but do not want to displease their religious authorities in our apathetic culture of death, abolitionists have remained determined to take their call for repentance and action directly to professing believers who are at least committed to gathering together to hear the word of God taught on Sunday mornings.
On March 26, when a group of abolitionists in Illinois decided to exhort members of a local church gathering called Compass Church, they chose to forego the use of signs, as it has often been interpreted as “protesting” and “picketing” and has provided fodder for critics who malign abolitionists as “enemies of the church.”
Compass holds services in a multi-use building with a public foyer that is neither owned nor rented by the church, in which abolitionists stood to hand out pamphlets.
As attendees left their service, abolitionists greeted them saying things such as, “Good morning, can I give you one of these?” and “God bless you.”
According to Schuessler and Buccini, despite the decision not to use any signs, the reception at Compass was less than welcoming: the church staff aggressively confronted them, posted signs distancing their organization from the “protesters,” and even attempted to physically remove them from the building.
The videos below show church staff members physically blocking their attempts to hand out literature in a public space. One one staff member wrested the literature out of the hands of congregants who tried to accept it, and declared, “I will stand in your face all afternoon, buddy” to the abolitionists.
When Buccini, the abolitionist in the video, pointed out that the staff member’s behavior was not very Christian the man agreed, but retorted that Buccini’s behavior was not Christian either. He failed to explain in what way handing out pamphlets encouraging people to love their neighbors was a violation of Christ’s commands. He also failed to clarify how Buccini’s behavior, whether it was sinful or not, justified sin on his part.
Eventually the pastor came out to engage abolitionists, but church security ordered them to leave the premises during the ensuing conversation.
According to Schuessler and Buccini, the abolitionists immediately complied, but an off-duty police officer who was in attendance nonetheless grabbed Schuessler, the only woman in the group, and began to force her toward the exit.
“The lead pastor there instructed us to leave and as we started walking towards the exit Jessica was grabbed by an off-duty police officer. He told to us to ‘get out now’ and threatened to forcibly remove and arrest us,” Buccini reported.
“I’m not sure what sparked it, but I believe some of the security team made some indication that they wanted us out (even though we were in the middle of a conversation that the pastor seemed to want to be having),” Schuessler said, “and the off-duty cop came up from behind me and put his hands on me kind of forcefully (but not so forcefully that I was hurt at all) saying pretty loudly to get out of the building. I told him to take his hands off of me and not to touch me a number of times.”
“The request and force happened simultaneously,” she added. “It was surprising and odd.”
Offended by the presence of abolitionists outside their doors, church staff called the police to settle their dispute.2 The police who showed up told the abolitionists they were free to continue handing out materials, since they were in a space that was open to the public.
As they continued their conversation, church staff members repeatedly told abolitionists that they agreed with the content of their message, and that their objection was to the way it was presented, which they said was unloving. They also complained that abolitionists did not reach out to them prior to coming, but the abolitionists said that they had contacted the church on multiple occasions over a period of two years via emails and informational packets sent to all campus pastors. They received no response except for a brief email from the senior pastor, Jeff Griffin, saying that he did not have time to meet.
Abolitionists were confused about how handing out pamphlets and saying “God bless you,” could be interpreted as unloving, but said that they were still able to have many good conversations with church attendees despite the strong reaction by church leadership.
“I’m thankful we had conversations with them. One lady was thankful we were there and asked for more of the quad-folds,” Schuessler said. “Another lady came up to say that ‘Planned Parenthood does good things too like offer prenatal care.’ I told her they don’t do prenatal care and reminded her they murder children. She ended up taking literature with tears in her eyes even though I could sense she came over to [criticize] what we were doing.”
Representatives of Compass Church did not respond to multiple requests for comment.