The Southern Poverty Law Center criticized the Southern Baptist Convention for electing a second vice president last June whose name appears on a “Declaration of Support for James Kopp,” a man convicted of killing a doctor because he provided abortions.

Already serving 25 years to life on a 2003 state murder conviction in New York, Kopp was convicted in January of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by assassinating the physician as he talked with his wife and children in the family’s kitchen. Kopp, 52, is also suspected in the shootings of four other abortion doctors in the U.S. and Canada. He faces a maximum prison term of life without parole when he is sentenced on the federal charges June 19.

Kopp, who was on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list before his capture in March 2001, has admitted to the shooting but claims he was only trying to wound the physician, and not kill him, to prevent him from performing abortions.

The declaration signed by Wiley Drake, elected last June as second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, appears on the Army of God Web site.

The National Abortion Federation describes the Army of God as an “underground network of domestic terrorists who believe that the use of violence is appropriate and acceptable as a means to end abortion.”

The Army of God Web site describes Paul Hill, a Presbyterian minister executed in 2003 for the 1994 killing of a doctor and bodyguard outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Fla., as “an American hero.”

It also links to the Web site of Eric Robert Rudolph–who pleaded guilty to the bombing and resulting murder of an off-duty police officer at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., and for the bombing and resulting murder at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, as well as two other bombings.

A note on the declaration of support for Kopp suggests: “I would advise, if you contemplate ever taking action against babykilling abortionists or their houses of murder, e.g. abortion mills; you DO NOT SIGN THIS, NOR MAKE YOURSELF OR YOUR PLANS KNOW IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER TO ANYONE AT ANY TIME.”

Drake is identified as on the declaration as a pastor and broadcaster with Crusade Radio. A comment alongside his name says: “The price of blood is high. Some will pay high, and some will pay low, but pay, we all will for the 40 million babies we have killed. God bless you my brother as you serve Him, and His little ones.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, SBC officials declined to comment publicly on the choice of Drake, who also serves as national chaplain of the anti-immigration Minuteman Project, a group that President Bush has called “vigilantes.”

The press release downplayed Drake’s office, calling the position honorary and saying he has no official duties and does not publicly represent the SBC in the media.

Since his election last June in Greensboro, N.C., however, Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Vista, Calif., has attached his title to various causes.

Recently Drake publicly invited radio host Don Imus to come on “The Wiley Drake Show” to apologize for remarks Imus made about the RutgersUniversity women’s basketball team.

Last fall Drake sparred with publishers of a textbook about The Bible and Its Influence over what Drake said were inaccuracies.

He supports an “exit strategy” from public schools, sponsoring a resolution about it at the California Southern Baptist Convention.

He supported an anti-homosexual “Save Wal-Mart” campaign, saying unless the company changes Southern Baptists would eventually boycott Wal-Mart as they did Disney in the 1990s.

Drake criticized the White House for appointing an openly gay physician as AIDS ambassador, labeling him a “sodomite.”

Before his election, Drake was best known as a driving force behind the Disney boycott, and for making so many motions at SBC annual meetings that officials changed regulations to limit how many times a single messenger can be recognized.

The declaration bearing his name says: “We, the signers of this declaration, proclaim that we support and stand for righteousness in the defense of the unborn…. We will stand with our brother Jim Kopp. We will support him for his love of unborn children.” It ends with a reference to “those who have made the ultimate sacrifice” in defending unborn children.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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