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COLUMN

Happytown

The wingnuts are coming! The

wingnuts are coming! Oh, wait. They’re already here. While we were busy scrubbing the vomit out of our polyester suits (a somewhat unavoidable catharsis resulting from our annual Best of Orlando shenanigans), an entirely different flavor of vomit – that of the traveling circus of peanut-fetus pictures and hyper-religious wrongheadedness – was rising in our throats as Operation Save America readied for its July 16-23 assault on Orlando. The gaggle of extremists that make up the crazier end of the Operation Rescue spectrum issued a decree on the organization’s website that “We are not waiting for an election cycle to bring an end to child killing. There is no time for that. We are going to unsheathe the Sword of the Spirit and bring justice to victory.” So, naturally, they brought that sword and that juiced-up spirit to a Days Inn on Orange Blossom Trail where they could enjoy a free continental breakfast with their woman-hating bile. Also, it’s worth noting that on its website the group makes some false Caylee Anthony equivalency (e.g., worthless babies), but that’s about enough of that.

What’s truly disturbing about Operation Save America and its seemingly harmless tendency to end every statement with a scripture verseisn’t that the group will probably just end up walking up and down Tampa Avenue harassing the staff and clients of Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando. No, this group is a little nuttier than that. In addition to your standard cringe-fiction literature and vocalized hyperbole-in-lockstep, Operation Save America – and one of its leaders, Flip Benham – has been known to cross the polite free speech lines in favor of, well, terrorism. And it’s not just against abortion providers, although that does seem to be the main focus; OSA hates the Muslims and the gays, too, because why not? (Billy 4:20).Benham, in fact, was convicted in North Carolina last November of basically stalking abortion providers by way of sepia-toned “Wanted” (dead or alive, implied) posters that included their home addresses. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, which should, incidentally, make him feel right at home on the Trail.

Locally, liberals and even religious groups that skew left are not taking the “conference” lightly. A sort of coalition, including Equality Florida, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women and other activist groups, has formed to quietly combat the unwanted tourism of crazy basement dwellers (counter protests are discouraged, but you can sign a petition at eqfl.org/choice). Those groups are working in concert with two local churches, the Orlando Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff and, hello, “Intelligence” officials to make sure things don’t get out of hand. According to Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando head Sue Idtensohn, early indications were that approximately 75 holy rollers would be holy rolling into town – which may not seem like much until you consider, as Idtensohn has, “You never know who might be carrying a gun.”

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