Far-right Links of Anti-Abortion Group Targeting UK Documentary Maker

Twice in row now, MediaWatchWatch points me in the direction of religious opportunism dressed up as Christian activism by the British far right. Yesterday I looked at the Christian Council of Britain; today it’s notorious anti-abortion group UK LifeLeague (“UKLL”). Citing the Observer, MWW draws attention to the targeting of a well-known journalist:

Rod Liddle’s documentary last Monday, The New Fundamentalists, was about how Christian creationists were taking over “foundation schools” to propagate their primitive world view to children in the UK.

The UK Life League, an anti-abortion campaign group, took such exception to this “grotesque attack on some of Christian morality” that they sent an email circular out to supporters attacking Liddle. They included his home address.

The schools Liddle discussed on his TV documentary were blogged by me some time ago; the programme also looked at British Christian fundamentalism more generally.

UKLL has used this strategy throughout its existence, targeting the homes of abortion clinic workers, pro-choice politicians, and others it objects to. Like the BNP, UKLL also jumped on the anti-Jerry Springer opera bandwagon back in January, after the show was broadcast by the BBC. The Guardian reported at the time:

The anti-abortion group UK Lifeleague told the Guardian it planned to publish the home address and personal phone number of the BBC’s director general, Mark Thompson, on its website and encourage supporters to “doorstep” him.

The UK LifeLeague was previously known as Precious Life, and it is led by Jim Dowson, a man with past links to Northern-Irish paramilitaries. The BBC noted back in 1999:

Jim Dowson, 33, who has admitted previous involvement with hard-line loyalist groups in the west of Scotland…was reported to have been the organiser of a flute band in Cumbernauld which recorded a tape in honour of Ulster Freedom Fighter member Michael Stone.

Stone was a noted loyalist terrorist in the Northern Ireland conflict, and was convicted of six murders. An Irish Sunday Mirror article from 2002 archived by Ireland United Against Fascism adds:

Precious Life has threatened doctors with ‘direct action’ and is headed by ex-Orangeman and Loyalist Jim Dowson. Dowson, 35, has a conviction for a firearms offence and his heavily tattooed arms indicate his loyalist politics.

However, Dowson told the BBC that he was now born again:

“I have made no secret from the very beginning of my very, very murky past but I am a committed Christian now and certainly nobody has got any more respect for human life than myself.”

Dowson is now a “Reverend”, and in a Sunday Herald report last year he described himself as “god-fearing, Presbyterian socialist.” This conversion, though, didn’t lead him to repent of all his “murky” far-right links. One of these connections, Justin Barrett, is the main subject of the Sunday Mirror article already cited:

…Barrett has attended a number of conferences and rallies in Italy held by the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party as well as being an ‘honour guest’ at German Nazi party NPD’s ‘National Day of Resistance’ rally in Passau in May 2000.

…Barrett also fronts Ireland’s Youth Defence, the anti-abortion group which funded the establishment of the Precious Life anti-abortion outfit, which operates in Scotland and Northern Ireland… Barrett himself admits that 70,000 euro was given by Youth Defence to Precious Life for office furniture.

But bizarrely:

…Barrett extols his extreme views in his book “The National Way Forward”. In this 200 page rant, he expresses opinions on everything from Jewish influences in the US to his ideas for Irish reunification that includes the expulsion of Northern Protestants.

One would think that this would put Barrett at odds with Dowson, but such would appear to be the weird alliances to be found on the far-right.

Last June, Dowson was a speaker at the Nationalist Education Forum in London. An obscure far-right site (1) reports:

The special guest speaker was Jim Dowson, founder of the pro-life, pro-family organisation the UK Life League who gave a speech entitled Nationhood.

Mr. Dowson introduced himself by unfurling a Union Jack flag and stating that he is an unashamed Protestant Loyalist. He asserted that the decline in the nation was not the fault of other races, of the government, of some Zionist conspiracy; the fault lay squarely with us.

He pointed at Northern Ireland where Catholics were having large families whilst the Protestants were in decline. There, the Protestants could not continue to blame the Catholics for doing what they themselves should be doing! The same was true on the mainland where MTV culture and a declining population were changing the face of the country.

Another far-right site (2) tells us that the Forum was also addressed by an unnamed speaker from Final Conflict, a British far-right magazine.

There have also been claims that Dowson had links with James Kopp, who was convicted in 2003 of killing an abortion provider in Buffalo, New York. In 2000 the US newsletter Anti-Abortion Violence Watch cited a Scottish Sunday Herald report:

…According to the FBI officials quoted in the Scottish report, Kopp has evaded capture for so long because of “extended help from the international radical wing of the anti-abortion movement”. Precious Life is one of Europe’s most extremist anti-abortion organizations; it began in Dublin and now operates in Glasgow. Its leader, Jim Dowson, claims to have no contact with Kopp. The Herald report, however, states that Dowson’s group had been “contacted at one point by the Army of God” – a group that has claimed responsibility for the 1998 fatal Birmingham abortion clinic bombing and the 1999 Atlanta bombings of an abortion clinic and lesbian and gay nightclub. Kopp is believed to be the person referred to by the moniker “Atomic Dog” throughout the Army of God tactical manual.

However, the Herald report was described as inaccurate by the FBI a few days afterward, and after Kopp’s arrest in France it was discovered that he had been hiding in Ireland.


Far-right sites cited, but not linked:

(1) syninfo.com/ian/PRIVATE/2005/06/23/2005062322383373.html

(2) churchofthesonsofyhvh.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=848&sid=caec614e9291bbc45f5f1ef2e9a8f3ca