FBI traces members of abortion murder suspect’s study group
They met in one another’s homes on Saturdays, their Sabbath, for potluck dinners and scripture study sessions.
Among the topics: The Old Testament, their Hebrew roots and the “secret societies” attempting to control government and culture.
Among the members: Scott Roeder, the Kansas City man accused of killing Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller.
As the investigation continues into whether Roeder acted alone in Tiller’s May 31 death, members of the study group have found themselves in the spotlight, showing up on the witness list for the prosecution and being interviewed by the FBI.
Even a rabbi at an Overland Park congregation of Messianic Jews has been questioned, although Roeder’s group broke away after some members were asked to leave the synagogue.
“People are trying to make something out of nothing,” said Michael Clayman, an attorney who was host for the group for a time in his Merriam home.
“It was like any other Bible study around town. It was a bunch of guys having spaghetti and meatballs, talking about philosophy. It wasn’t a bunch of Jim Jones people meeting or drinking Kool-Aid or plotting things. No cult, no nothing.”
The group does help explain the foundation of some of Roeder’s beliefs, which included distrust of government and opposition to abortion.
Those attending the study group describe themselves as Messianic Jews who, unlike mainstream Jews, believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Some people who call themselves Messianic Jews, such as Roeder, are not Jewish.
Messianic Jews observe many Jewish customs, including dietary laws and holidays.
In a recent interview, Roeder said he “had become a believer” around 1992.
“I converted, born again to Christianity,” he said. “I guess you could say Messianic, or turned to Jesus, Yeshua, as my Savior.” He said Messianic believers such as himself had gone “back to our Hebrew roots.”
Roeder said he preferred going to a study group instead of a more formal religious setting because “organized religion is 501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, which are businesses.”
“We stay away from them,” he said, adding that religious organizations receiving tax-exempt status become corrupt because they are beholden to the government.
Roeder and other members of the Bible study used to attend the Or HaOlam Messianic Congregation in Overland Park but split off, some said, because the leaders did not want to hear their talk about Freemasons and other “secret societies.”
They also didn’t approve of Or HaOlam being registered as a nonprofit corporation with the state of Kansas.
Rabbi Shmuel Wolkenfeld of the Or HaOlam congregation confirmed that Roeder and the others left over disagreements.
Tiller shooting suspect may weigh justifiable homicide defense
The suspect in the killing of abortion provider George Tiller is in talks with a prominent attorney who represents anti-abortion protesters and has long advocated justifiable homicide as a legal defense in such cases.
Scott Roeder, 51, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges in the May 31 shooting death of Tiller in the foyer of his Wichita church. The Kansas City, Mo., man has refused to discuss his case, but he has told The Associated Press that Tiller’s killing was justified to save “the lives of unborn children.”
Roeder has court-appointed defense attorneys, but he apparently has now turned to Michael Hirsh, the lawyer who represented Paul Hill on appeal for killing a Florida abortion provider and his bodyguard in 1994. Hill was executed in 2003 after the Florida Supreme Court rejected Hirsh’s argument that the judge should have allowed Hill to present to jurors his claim that the killings were justified to prevent abortions.
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