SPRINGFIELD – Before ten Illinois lawmakers left the Capitol last Friday afternoon, they filed a resolution that would ban citizens with deeply held religious beliefs from freely expressing those views and conveying those views to their elected officials at the State Capitol.
Members of the Illinois Legislature's Jewish caucus released a press statement condemning Illinois Family Institute and its sister organization Illinois Family Action – calling for the State Police to investigate the group's "pattern of hate speech and imagery" as posted on their website and social media pages.
The Jewish caucus press release, first posted on the CapitolFax website published by longtime Springfield writer Rich Miller, said:
On March 20th, Illinois Family Action posted an article comparing Democrats to Nazis. Under pressure to remove the post from its website, a second post appeared the next day, with even more hateful language comparing reproductive rights to the Holocaust. A third social media post unleashed a vicious attack on state Rep. Kelly Cassidy, a member of the Jewish caucus, and an openly gay state representative who is a strong supporter of a women's right to choose.
“We consider an attempt to use Nazi imagery and a genocidal equation on matters regarding a legal right to health care service, clear cut hate speech,” said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz. “This pattern of hateful actions are exactly what ignites a call to action for violence."
“We call on the Illinois State Police to do a full investigation of these incidents,” said state Rep. Jonathan Carroll. “These two organizations maintain full credentials as lobbyists to freely move throughout the Capitol complex.”
“We can’t ignore the horrors of recent synagogue and mosque shootings. They are fresh in our minds,” said state Sen. Laura Fine. “Words matter. Words such as these incite hate speech and lead to violence.”
“Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in cold blood in his home by sniper fire while celebrating the Sabbath with his children and wife,” said state Rep. Yehiel Kalish. “He was gunned down because he provided a full range of reproductive health care to his patients.”
The Jewish caucus will be filing a joint resolution to make clear the Illinois General Assembly objection to this hate speech and encourage an investigation.
The members of the Jewish caucus in the House are Jonathan Carroll, Kelly Cassidy, Daniel Didech, Sara Feigenholtz, Robyn Gabel, Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, Will Guzzardi, Yehiel Kalish, and Bob Morgan. The caucus also includes state Senator Laura Fine.
The offense the Jewish caucus expressed stemmed from an article Illinois Family Institute posted comparing the Nazi slaughter of millions of Jews to America's abortion industry's slaughter of millions of unborn babies since the 1973 Roe vs Wade legalization of abortion. A piece written by Teri Paulson entitled "Why Is Legalized Abortion Called a Holocaust?" included these words the Jewish caucus found offensive:
Here’s the critical question: What will the rest of us do? Will we follow in the footsteps of the average German citizen during WWII? Most of them shut their eyes, closed their ears, and sang a little louder in church when the cattle cars full of Jews on their way to the concentration camps rolled by. Will we do the same? Will we simply allow this to blow over in a few weeks, or will we learn something from history and resist?
The Democrats have crossed a terrible line. They should hear us roar. Will they?
The original version of Paulson's article was entitled “Democrat Politicians and Nazis: Is There a Difference?" featuring a chart comparing Nazis to Democrats. Illinois Family Institute deleted the original version and reposted the piece with a different headline and different featured photo, the Sun-Times reported.
'It’s becoming a distraction so I took it down, until we can come up with a better headline or flesh it out,” [IFI Executive Director David E.] Smith said.
“It asked the question, Democratic politicians and Nazis, is there a difference? And considering the abortion holocaust that our country is going through and the push for extreme late abortion legislation, we were asking the question,” Smith said.
Later, he emailed the Sun-Times to say he had republished the article, with a “better headline and better graphic.”
The next day, Illinois Family Institute posted a subsequent article doubling down on their position of comparing the Holocaust to America's position on abortion. In that second piece, IFI author Laurie Higgins said while "revealing" IFI redoing its original article on the story, the Sun Times changed their own story on the situation. In the second version, they removed a quote from State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, saying, "[IFI] is a group promoting violence and hate speech and they have people on the payroll wearing badges bypassing security [at the Capitol] walking in and out of this building every day. And I think that should be examined."
Higgins' piece then went on to explain her criticism of Rep. Cassidy as a "feticidal maniac."
In response, the Jewish caucus introduced a resolution condemning Illinois Family Institute (and Action), calling for drastic measures such as banning the group's lobbyists from access to lawmakers, condemning those opposing many of those same lawmakers' proposals to expand abortion practices by filling the Capitol last Wednesday with protesters and more.
Former State Rep. Jeanne Ives – now held by many in the state's conservative movement as their de facto leader – expressed outrage with HJR 55's introduction, writing on her Facebook page,
As American citizens we have the right to free speech, the right to assembly, and the right to petition our government. I will not be silenced…
After learning several Republican lawmakers are considering supporting the resolution, Ives gave an ultimatum:
… If any Republican dares to vote for HJR 55, I will not support them. This bill is about silencing American citizens and taking away our rights. It is about making government the determinate of what words can be said. How dare they even suggest it. And how dare Republicans even consider voting for it.
Monday morning, IFI author Laurie Higgins wrote a lengthy, formal response to HJR 55, which at one points says:
The central issue is not whether the Nazi Holocaust is an apt analogue for America’s feticidal holocaust. The central issue is whether humans in the womb are persons with intrinsic and infinite worth. If they are, the analogy does not belittle the extermination of Jews by Nazis. If humans in the womb are persons with intrinsic and infinite worth, calling their extermination “health care”—as the resolution’s sponsors do—is an appalling horror.
The resolution is sure to result in contentious debate as the Illinois General Assembly decides what they will consider "hate speech," and what type of language and grievance they intend to ban at the Illinois State Capitol – and throughout the state.